VHA to have on-site managers at complexes

Published 11:58 am Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Asset managers for Vicksburg Housing Authority are poised to move out of the central office and set up shop at individual properties run by the organization.

The move, which was encouraged by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is under way and is designed to keep closer tabs on finances as federal funding continues to be slashed, members of the board of commissioners said.

“The strategy now has to change for us a little bit,” said Executive Director Bennett Washington.

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The asset managers will have an office at each housing complex and operate like apartment managers, Washington said. The central office will control purchasing and the distribution of maintenance items, he said.

Having managers on-site will allow for quicker identification of problems and let commissioners know what long-term goals need to be set, commissioner Abraham Green Jr. said. Changes in the way HUD operates have left VHA struggling to make ends meet in the past few years, he said.

The biggest changes, he said, have been decreases in subsidies and a mandatory utility reimbursement program.

VHA has a projected $681,000 in subsidies for the 2012 fiscal year but has yet to tap into the funds, Washington said.

“It’s already there waiting on us but we haven’t pulled them down yet because we haven’t needed it yet,” he said.

Green said the subsidy is about $200,000 less than it was just two years ago.

The housing authority is required to reimburse utility costs to tenants who qualify because of income. Some of those residents pay only $45 to $50 per month in rent while VHA is footing a bill of $80 to $100 a month for utilities, commissioners said in January.

“Now, you have to have major changes to start operating in the black,” Green said.

VHA hopes to return to operating with a surplus but was $29,000 in the hole for December. Commissioners said it was a marked decrease in deficit from previous months.

“Damn, that’s better than where we were,” commissioner John Ferguson said.

After enough money is saved, Washington said, VHA may consider performing major upgrades to its properties, rather than providing numerous small short-term fixes.

“We might say in three years let’s just do one mass fix and do a total rehab of certain properties,” he said.

The housing authority has already looked for ways to trim the budget for what commissioners expect to be a financially lean year.

In January, VHA announced the termination of a contract for extra police presence on VHA property. The contract with Vicksburg Police Department expires at the end of the month, and the cutback will save VHA about $145,000 a year, Washington said.

Soon, VHA may experiment with adding alarms to residential units, Washington said. If the test is successful, all residences might be fitted with monitored alarm systems, he said.

In other action, the board:

• Approved the minutes for two Jan. 17 board meetings.

• Approved paying the January bills.

• Approved the financial and housing reports.