The Warren County Housing Authority is working to avoid a "troubled" designation due to low public housing occupancy numbers.
At the board of directors' monthly meeting Tuesday, staff outlined the challenges they face to avoid being designated "troubled" by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Treasurer Stacy Kranak summed up the problem saying, "We're moving ten or twelve people in a month, but as fast as we can move them in, they're leaving."
According to Kranak, due to an aging residency demographic, a large number of people are dying, moving into care facilities or moving in with relatives.
To meet HUD requirements to avoid a "troubled" designation, Executive Director Tonya Mitchell-Weston said the authority must raise the occupancy rate in its public housing program by at least 10 percent, to 97 percent occupancy or higher, by midnight on Dec. 31.
A "troubled" designation, according to Mitchell-Weston, would mean less board autonomy and multiple new levels of administrative oversight.
"I got a housing authority out of 'troubled' status once," Mitchell-Weston said. "We did it in a year. Under the new rules for 'troubled' designation, I don't want to think about it."
There was some good news for the board related to another key statistic to determine "troubled" status Section 8 assisted housing program occupancy.
Section 8 housing rates currently stand at 44 vouchers in the program, which equates to a 105 percent occupancy rate. According to Mitchell-Weston, an additional five to six people were currently on the program waiting list, but the authority plans to open the waiting list to new applicants by the end of the month.
In fact, Mitchell-Weston announced, the authority's Section 8 program was honored recently as a high performer program.
According to Mitchell-Weston, the discrepancy between program numbers is at least partly due to the perceived benefits tenants see from the Section 8 program over the public housing program, namely, Section 8 housing is transferable.
Mitchell-Weston said many applicants apply to both programs when seeking housing assistance. When the applicant reaches the top of the waiting list for public housing, he or she often requests to be moved to the end of the list until it is determined whether they can get into the Section 8 program. Accepting participation in the public housing program would remove them from the Section 8 waiting list.
Mitchell-Weston said she hopes opening the Section 8 waiting list to new applicants, in turn lengthening the list, will help alleviate this spurning of one form of aid in favor of another.
The authority is also attempting to promote public housing participation through incentives, such as smaller security deposit requirements and advertising.