VHA misses out on pilot program

Published 12:03 pm Friday, February 21, 2014

The Vicksburg Housing Authority missed the cut for an experimental U. S. Housing and Urban Development program designed to rehabilitate public housing, the VHA Board of Commissioners learned Tuesday.

VHA’s 430 units were among 60,000 homes nationwide made eligible on a first come, first served basis for the Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD program, geared to move housing from “public housing” to “Section 8” so structures can be brought up to HUD standards. Competition was tight, VHA executive director Ben Washington said.

“HUD was pushing the housing authorities to apply for the program,” Washington said. “We got our application in to HUD in November, but a lot of other agencies got busy and decided to put their applications in as well, and HUD reached it’s 60,000 threshold (before VHA’s application was received).”

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He said VHA is about 15th in line for the program, adding HUD has asked Congress to expand RAD by an additional 90,000 units, which would allow VHA to participate.

“We’re in the hopper,” he said. “It all depends on what Congress does.”

Under RAD, a housing authority such as VHA will receive one lump sum for operations and capital projects based on the total estimated rent of the units. The rent of each unit will be determined by HUD officials based on the surrounding home rental market then totaled for the program’s voucher.

Washington said housing authorities participating in the RAD program will be encouraged to use their current capital funds to borrow money to renovate and improve their properties to bring them up to HUD standards.

He urged the board to wait until April to determine if Congress extends the program.

“We’ll see how the legislative session goes, and hopefully we’ll have some word from HUD as far as getting that (expansion) done,” he said.

Washington said VHA has about $1.2 million accrued in its capital fund, adding if the expansion is delayed until 2015, “we’ll start using our funds, I guess to start making some repairs we need.”

“If it’s this year, we’ll stay,” he said. “I really hate the idea of putting money into these units and then turn around and totally re-do the units over again because of RAD.”

Eventually, he said, HUD may mandate that all housing authorities participate in RAD. If the expansion is pushed to 2015, he said, “we may just pull out and wait until HUD mandates it.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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