WILMINGTON — The Cleveland office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants the Clinton Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) to draw up an action plan with the aim of making its voucher program self-sufficient.
The longtime local Housing Authority Director Kathy Collins said during Monday’s CMHA board meeting, “As I sit here today, I cannot outline that [a plan to be self-sustaining] for you. We have taken every budgetary cut we can take.”
New board member Marian Miller said the public Housing Authority can get creative in order to position itself to be a sustainable housing provider going forward.
By meeting’s end, board members already had come up with a couple ideas: Start a marketing and recruitment effort to add landlords to the local Housing Choice Voucher program; and create a local Housing Authority website.
A self-sustaining action plan is supposed to be crafted by the end of March.
Collins has worked at the Clinton Metropolitan Housing Authority for some 27 years. She said she has applied for all available funding from the start.
Board member Keith Gerritz followed up that comment by saying, “There has been very little community and county support for public housing, for Section 8, over the years.” Collins responded that is correct.
Board member Marque Jones indicated a HUD representative said it will take 30 more Section 8 vouchers for Clinton Metropolitan Housing Authority to break even.
Currently, the local Housing Authority has 298 vouchers, Collins said.
Some rental-assistance vouchers are not being used, she said, because after issuance of a voucher, clients cannot find suitable, affordable housing.
“It means rents are too high for our voucher clients to afford under the program guidelines,” said the director.
After a voucher is issued, clients have 120 days to use it.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking when they expire without being used,” Collins said.
Over time, Clinton Metropolitan Housing Authority has worked with about 300 landlords. Currently, 150 to 160 landlords take part in the Housing Choice Voucher program, according to Collins.
A local real estate firm involved in property management said they stopped participating not because of bad tenants but because they got sick of doing the paperwork, said Collins.
Gerritz suggested reaching out to the local ministerial association and informing them about the voucher program because of the pastors’ contacts with church members and attendees.
The local Housing Choice Voucher program had operating deficits totaling $176,320 from 2007 through 2019, including a deficit for each of the past seven years, stated HUD’s Cleveland office last fall.
The request for the action plan was part of a Nov. 23 letter to Collins from HUD’s Cleveland office communicating the outcome of a review HUD conducted between February and June 2020. The letter also offers guidance on items that the Housing Authority needs to resolve “to preserve Clinton Metropolitan Housing Authority’s ability to provide the needed housing resources in Clinton County.”
The letter then refers to “the financial insolvency of the Housing Choice Voucher program.”
From the Office of Public Housing Director Brian Murray, the letter notes that Housing Authorities are required to have five members on their board. It asked that the Clinton Metropolitan Housing Authority have a fully constituted board by the end of 2020.
There now are five members: Jones, Gerritz, Miller, Emily Long and Denise Stryker. Jones is the City of Wilmington tax commissioner; Gerritz is a retired Wilmington College professor; Miller is City of Wilmington administrator; Long is associate director of the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission; and Stryker is the executive director of the Clinton County Homeless Shelter.
Miller, Long and Stryker are new board members.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.