Burns commends exiled Prospect residents for keeping a united front

Sticking together, speaking up fostering return to their community

EBENSBURG, Sept. 7 – On the heels of the Johnstown Housing Authority notifying exiled Prospect residents that it will pursue repairs to repatriate them, state Rep. Frank Burns is commending the public housing community for its determination.

Burns, D-Cambria, said the wishes and concerns of those suddenly forced to evacuate the 110-unit complex earlier this year have been at the forefront of his own involvement in this issue. Burns’ efforts were acknowledged in a letter he received from a Prospect tenant representative.

“I’ve talked to many Prospects residents, and collectively their most fervent desire has been to return home, to the community they know and love,” Burns said. “They didn’t like being scattered to the wind, and they certainly did not want to stay in those locations. It appears they are succeeding.”

Burns said those former tenants organized the Prospect Homes People of 2023 Association and, with the help of an attorney from the Community Justice Project, let the public, the JHA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development know their preference was for repair and returning home, not rebuilding and permanent relocation.

Burns, who has sided with tenants and sought answers and transparency on their behalf, said the Sept. 1 letter they received from JHA Executive Director Michael P. Alberts is a key step in the direction they seek.

“Based on recent cost estimates for the necessary repairs, we are optimistic that the work will be affordable,” Alberts wrote. “In the near future, we will be accepting bid proposals from contractors to perform repairs. Those bid prices will be the final factor in determining if we can proceed with repairs.

“Our hope remains to repair Prospect and invite residents back to their previous homes, if they wish to return.”

Burns said while Alberts also wrote, “The bid packets and full specifications for repair activities are not yet available,” he hopes those are made publicly available as soon as possible, so the scope of work can be scrutinized by the public before the project goes out for bid.

“With so many displaced Prospect residents eager to return home as soon as possible, one thing they don’t need is specifications that jack up the bid prices to the point where repairs are deemed unaffordable,” Burns said. “They’re not asking for the Taj Mahal or anything opulent. They just want a safe, decent, sanitary place to live.”