Official: more HUD housing vouchers needed : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Official: more HUD housing vouchers needed|
|More than 4,400 now under the poverty level in Kendall County|
|by Matt Schury|
The Kendall Housing Authority (KHA) could use more federal housing vouchers to assist the county's low-income residents, but the agency's executive director, Deborah Darzinskis, said she doesn't expect the agency will be receiving additional vouchers any time soon.
Kendall County currently has 160 Housing Choice Vouchers through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
According to the KHA's new annual plan, the U.S. Census Bureau's statistics that show 4,448 people live under the poverty level in Kendall County or about 3.8 percent of the total population.
The 160 vouchers issued to the KHA serve about 3.6 percent of those people living under the poverty level.
When asked if Kendall County could use more vouchers, Darzinskis said that one could argue the entire nation needs more vouchers.
"The numbers show that we continue to need the 160 that we have and if we had more we could certainly use them but HUD is not granting any new vouchers at this point," she said.
The KHA operates under the authority of the DuPage Housing Authority (DHA). The KHA partners with DuPage to offer housing vouchers through HUD. The vouchers pay 30 percent of a low-income family's rent. The housing authority covers a certain percentage of the rest depending on income level.
Darzinskis says she remains optimistic about the future of the DHA and the KHA.
"I feel good. I think there is a lot to continue to work towards," she said. "We've made steady progress we're going to be having our review from HUD ... coming up. It started off in a troubled area and I think we are going making steady progress," she said.
That troubled area involved a 2011 audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) claiming former DHA executive director John Day and Robert Hess, former chief financial officer, mismanaged finances. Day and Hess resigned in April 2011. That same year all six DHA commissioners stepped down.
HUD recommended the DHA reimburse over $600,000 in federal funds and provide documentation or repay an additional $4 million in funds they say were misused. The audit also recommended the DHA implement procedures and controls to address the findings. HUD said in their report that the accusations did not affect the KHA.
However, the KHA has seen its share of turnover among its board of commissioners with long-time commissioners Joel Ottosen stepping down in 2011 and former long-time county board member Jessie Hafenrichter resigning this year.
New commissioners Jeremy Swanson and Carl Gutierrez were appointed in July. County board member Matt Prochaska was also appointed to the board a couple of years ago. Remaining on the board are chairman Jim Dirst and Plano attorney Tom Grant.
Last summer the Kendall County Board signed an agreement with the KHA that allows them to lease office space in the Kendall County Health Department in Yorkville. The County Board recently expressed interest in extending that agreement another year.
Darzinskis said that the re-establishment of an office space at the county went a long way. The office for the KHA was at an out-of-the-way location on Tuma Road in Yorkville.
"We couldn't be happier, the people at the county they are just outstanding," she said, adding that clients of the KHA can also get assistance if they need it at the Health Department.
As for the new annual plan, Darzinskis mentioned a few of the changes she is suggesting to the board of commissioners who will have the final vote.
Darzinskis explained that she just went over the goals and objectives and made sure they were current and still made sense for the KHA.
"These are the changes that I know that we need to make to make it relevant for the next year," she said.
One objective that has been phased out involved implementing HUD's Homeownership Program. The plan states "this goal has been accomplished and will be discontinued as the initiation of this as a new program in Kendall County is not possible during the next year."
The program was supposed to help voucher holders make mortgage payments in certain situations. Darzinskis said the program was never achieved in Kendall County and federal funding for it has dried up.
We're going to discontinue that because there are really not funds at this point," she said. "It's a wonderful goal but it can't be operationalized at this point so we'll have to take a look at that later."
The program came into existence prior to the downturn in the housing market; she said they have to see if it still works.
"When this program started mortgage were a lot easier to get and there was a whole different environment," she said.
She added that given the changes in the real estate market and the demographics of the community given how much has changed in the last five to 10 years.
"We just need to see where we are at and then take a look at the federal dollars and what's happening at that level," she said.
The KHA Board of Commissioners held a public hearing over the agency's new annual plan last week. The board is expected to adopt the plan when they hold their next regular meeting on Friday, Sept. 27.
Among the goals in the plan is to establish a new waiting list for the KHA's vouchers.
"We're at the point where it's not quite there but we think over the next year we'll be at the point where the numbers are low enough and we can re-open the wait list and get it more current," she said.
She explained that they have to go through the current wait list and make sure the people on it are still here, can be contacted and are still interested or qualify.
Darzinskis noted it has been over three years since the list was opened and the KHA will announce publicly when it is open again.
Darzinskis also lined-out a couple of "new" programs on the list that the KHA was pursuing that are no longer current. She said it's important to refocus the KHA on programs that are feasible.
"This doesn't seem to be where the housing authority or the housing world is right now," she said.
For instance, one program-the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) came through at the beginning at of President Barack Obama's first term in office.
"You can't apply for an NSP program-its time came and went," she said. "It was a response to a certain period of time in the housing market."
One program Darzinskis says she'd like to see the board pursue includes designating a portion of the Housing Choice Vouchers for Project Based developments.
Project Based Vouchers are a sub category of vouchers, which can be aimed at people with disabilities, senior citizens or those with special needs. The vouchers will stay with a particular building that caters to the needs of those clients rather than the person.
"It's someone who needs supportive services in addition to housing," she said.
For example a housing unit that has this program for senior citizens would allow those clients over 64 who meet the financial requirements to apply to live in that unit. If a senior moves out, the voucher would stay with the housing facility.
"It's something for the commissioners to consider at this point," she said. "Do we want to take some portion of the vouchers that are eligible in Kendall County to designate for this type of housing development."