Housing Authority residents express concerns about proposed changes

Published 10:12 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Andalusia Public Housing Authority is considering applying for the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD,) but several residents were not happy with the announcement and voiced their opinions during a meeting with the RAD representatives Tuesday.

RAD is a program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that seeks to preserve affordable housing. RAD allows public housing authorities to convert a public housing property’s HUD funding to either a Section 8 project-based voucher (PBV,) or a Section 8 project-based rental assistance (PBRA.)

This conversion of funding to long-term Section 8 contracts gives PHAs more flexibility in seeking funding for needed repairs.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development is really pushing for public housing authorities to make the conversion to RAD,” Andalusia Housing Authority Director Bobby Johns said. “There are two ways that you can go, with the PBV and the PBRA. To put it in layman’s terms, we are looking at PBRA conversion, which is a rental assistance conversion.”

Kim Golden from Vision Driven Communities has been working with RAD conversions since 2013.

“The reality of this conversion is that your day-to-day won’t look any different,” Golden said. “The way that your rent is calculated, does not look any different. That is one of the first things that everybody wants to know. One of the things that sometimes happens in a RAD conversion is that there is a rehab process where we make things better in the housing authority, which causes the utilities bill to get a little higher and on paper the rent looks a little higher. Your portion will stay the same though. All your rent stays the same and another thing is that you are not rescreened as a part of RAD. What that means is, once you first tried to join the housing authority, you were screened to see if you qualified, but since there is a new conversion, you won’t be rescreened.”

One of the things that RAD and HUD are very big on, Golden said, is tenant rights.

“The main thing is that we want you to be informed and we want you to know what is happening,” Golden said. “Which is why we are required to send the tenants the big scary letter and which is why we have this meeting to talk to you and answer any questions that you have.”

The letter that RAD sent to Andalusia Public Housing Authority tenants talked about possible relocation. Golden said that relocation is a rare occurrence.

“The reality is that most RAD conversions involve no relocation at all,” Golden said. “Nobody will have to move anywhere because no rehab is happening, but we are required to let you know how it would effect you if it did happen.”

Johns said that the main reason he is looking at entering the RAD conversion program is because of financial reasons.

“The biggest help for us is the financial peace,” Johns said. “It does have a few negative effects to the people who are on the upper echelon of the of the income and they have a flat rate, but for the most part it will be totally transparent. We don’t have a secret agenda where we are going to raise the rent. This will really lock us in for a 20-year long-term goal. In today’s environment, I don’t know what I can get from year to year. I mean, sometimes I have to use my entire HUD subsidy to pay our utility bill.”

Tenant Vickie Benson who has lived in the Andalusia Public Housing Authority since she was a little girl, said, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

“My question to Mr. Johns is, are we in a deficit now?” Benson said. “If we are not in a deficit then why would we need this RAD conversion?”

Johns answered by saying that the government is pushing towards the RAD conversions.

“Public Housing is not guaranteed any money,” Johns said. “Next year we could be at absolutely zero capital funds.”

Golden said by going ahead with the RAD conversions, they would be locking in money for the next 20 years.

“Mr. Johns mentioned about how that money might be going away and how he is unsure of where money would come from,” Golden said. “By doing this that wouldn’t affect the Andalusia Public Housing Authority because they would have already locked in funds by participating in RAD.”