By Vanesa Brashier, email@example.com
Liberty County Housing Authority is once again working on a solid financial foundation to help residents in need of fair, affordable housing, according to Executive Director Delores Moore, who was appointed six months ago by a new board of directors.
“When I took over earlier this year, the Liberty County Housing Authority was about $35,000 in the red and now we are in the black. As a result, HUD (a program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) is smiling upon us again,” Moore said during an Aug. 29 open house at the LCHA office at 2103 Cos St., Liberty.
Over the last couple of years, LCHA went through a shake-up when a previous director was removed and some board members were replaced. In addition to new members on the board, the terms of office have changed to where members serve for two years before rotating off.
LCHA Vice Chair Ryan Daniel, who served on the previous board, was the catalyst for the change, according to Moore.
“He sent in open records act requests and got the ball rolling. What he discovered in those requests is what led to an all-new board,” she said.
New LCHA Board Chairman Klint Bush claims the previous board left $100,000 of Hurricane Ike-related disaster funds, unused and untouchable, in an account that was earmarked for disaster-related housing.
“It sat in the bank for 9-10 years. All HUD wanted was a written plan approved by the Housing Authority’s accountant and attorney. That’s all they wanted but no one on the board ever did that. Now, we can use the money for disaster-related housing,” Bush said.
Oversight of the HUD-funded Section 8 vouchers had become an issue in recent years, causing HUD to drop the allotment of vouchers and funding for Liberty County, said Moore.
“We started by going in and doing things that hadn’t been done in a long while – like background checks. That cleared up some vouchers. Some landlord issues were also cleared up,” she said.
The background checks are meant to eliminate applicants who have criminal records or have previous evictions or red flags with HUD. Voucher-holders are prohibited from having people live with them who are not on the lease and authorized by HUD.
“If you have ever been involved in violent activity, you are off the list. If you have been involved in drug sales, you are off the list. If you are flagged for a violation, you will never get back in the system. If you are evicted by us, then that’s it. It’s pretty strict,” Bush said.
Despite the county having a population approaching 90,000 people, only 220 public housing vouchers are issued to Liberty County by HUD. Applicants are placed on a waiting list until openings become available.
“The housing is subsidized based on the applicant’s income level. HUD will pay a portion of the rent and the tenant will make up the rest with the amount based on their income level,” she said. “The maximum that a person can make to be a voucher holder is less than $26,000 a year. That’s not a lot. You must have some level of income, even if it comes from SSI (Supplemental Security Income).”
Many of the residents in public housing are elderly, disabled, handicapped, veterans or families. In Liberty County, single moms make up the majority of voucher holders.
“We have a housing shortfall in Liberty County. There aren’t enough homes available for all of the people asking for assistance. We work with the housing authorities in Cleveland and Dayton, and can place people there if they have space, but there is a real need for more housing,” Moore said. “Once an applicant makes it through our background check, then we give them a voucher that gives them the ability to go out in the community. They can look for places that are in the program or they can approach landlords who have properties that aren’t part of public housing to see if they are willing to lease the property to them.”
According to Moore, HUD pays fair market value to the landlords. Property owners who require a deposit are asked to work out a payment plan with the tenant. For more information on the Liberty County Housing Authority, call 936-336-4558, ext. 4.