VHA expects to even out on spending this year

Published 11:54 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The often cash-strapped Vicksburg Housing Authority projects breaking even this year and might recoup some of its losses.

VHA is seeking a $101,000 cut of $20 million offered by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help eliminate hardships caused by deep subsidy cuts, executive director Ben Washington told the VHA Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

“We had to cut staff and eliminate our security contract, as you all know,” Washington said. “If we get it, that will be great.”

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Last month, HUD offered the money after receiving multiple complaints from housing authorities all over the country, Washington said.

VHA’s $1.6 million fiscal 2012 budget is about $400,000 less than 2011, and its $600,000 in federal operating subsidies for 2012 are about $200,000 less than they were just two years ago.

The commissioners in January canceled VHA’s contract with the Vicksburg Police Department for security at its sites, saving about $145,000 a year.

The 2012 budget year ends in September and expenses and income for VHA balance out to about $150,000 a month, Washington said. For fiscal year 2013, subsidies are expected to double from $45,000 a month to around $90,000 a month, he said.

The decrease in subsidies came this year because of a change in utility payments. 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.

The cost of the extra expenses was not figured into subsidies for this fiscal year, Washington said.

“If we can manage to finish out this year, ’13 should be a good year if our subsidies go up,” he said.

If VHA can achieve a surplus, commissioners plan to perform long-term fixes at some properties, such as the troubled Waltersville Estates near the Kings subdivision.

Tenant turnover and structural problems have plagued the housing project, Washington said. At least five tenants move out every month, he said, adding four notices to vacate were filed Tuesday.

“It’s the environment. We’ve got to do something,” said VHA commissioner John Ferguson.

The area is flood-prone and often covered in trash, Washington said. There is often a group of five to six men hanging around causing trouble, said commissioner Abraham Green.

“It’s just kind of depressing,” Washington said.