Expert explains public housing funding

Sharlene LeRoy gives a presenation on the proposed switchover of the Gloversville Housing Authority from a Section 9 public housing structure to a section 8 voucher structure on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor)

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Housing Authority is considering moving from a Section 9 public housing structure to a Section 8 housing voucher program in the coming year.

On Thursday, Sharlene LeRoy, a consultant, came to speak with the board and answer questions from the commissioners, the public and employees about the proposal that would alter how projects for the housing authority are financed.

Currently, the GHA needs to go through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to do improvement projects. Under Section 8, the GHA would be able to leverage both public and private debt and equity into reinvestments.

LeRoy said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is encouraging public housing agencies nationwide to switch to section 8 through a process called Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD.

LeRoy reaffirmed several times that rents would not be increasing for tenants at Gloversville Housing’s three locations: Kingsboro Towers, Forest Hill Towers and Dubois Gardens complex. Tenants would be issued vouchers for their apartments.

LeRoy said current residents would be grandfathered into their units, and there will be no need for new applications for existing tenants.

According to HUD, Residents would continue to pay 30 percent of their income toward the rent and they maintain the same basic rights as they possess in the public housing program.

LeRoy said that once the go-ahead to close is given by HUD, 180 days is given to close. The authority received word they could begin to close about 30 days ago.

The RAD program is cost-neutral and does not increase HUD’s budget.

LeRoy said the conversion would allow the GHA to potentially create new affordable housing units in the city, since HUD currently limits the number of units they have access to.

Commissioner Marcia Weiss questioned if the change would have any impact on how the board of commissioners is made up or functions.

LeRoy said the change won’t affect the structure of the GHA board or the Mayor’s roll in appointing or removing members, unless the board itself decided to make changes.

Weiss said she is concerned that some oversight could be removed as the authority changes.

Weiss said she thinks the conversion idea is a good one for the GHA.

“I’ve dealt with section 8, it’s a good program,” Weiss, who has building management experience, said.

GHA Executive Director Tim Mattice said the conversion will guarantee for the next 15 years, a set of funds that is automatically renewed with a three percent increase. The contract must be renewed, ensuring the units remain permanently affordable to low-income households.

“Under the section 9, there is no guarantee [of funding increases],” Mattice said. “We are at .88 cents on the dollar, and that funding will continue to go down, along with the capital fund money that we use to make improvements on our building.”

Mattice said those involved in public housing are seeing that a change needs to be made at some point along the line.

“This is a choice we have to make. We are not being forced to make a RAD conversion. This is a choice we have available to us. Whether we are ready for that choice now, the board is going to have to make that decision,” Mattice said.

The Board of Commissioners have decided to table a resolution on advertising the agency’s conversion and reviewing a fiscal year 2017 and five year plan relating to RAD until they have more time to study it. The GHA’s attorney Ben McGuire said the board can hold a special meeting later this month to vote on the resolution.

Kerry Minor can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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