110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Apr 21, 2011 - 9:13:20am
The future of funding to help people with housing may be uncertain, but there’s no shortage of the need for help.
The DeLand Housing Authority can’t tell you exactly how many people in the DeLand area
need help. They aren’t taking applications right now, even to get on a waiting list. The existing waiting lists are already long.
The Housing Authority manages money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide both public housing, and Section 8 rental assistance. Section 8 is also called “the Housing Choice Vouchers Program.”
Right now, there’s no public housing in DeLand to manage. The city’s Section 8 program, currently helping people pay rent on 749 homes, is tapped out. The Section 8 waiting list is closed.
DeLand’s public-housing complex, the aging 200-unit Oakland Terrace, was torn down in 2007. Construction of a new 210-unit complex called Laurel Villas began last fall on property at East Euclid and South Amelia avenues.
If all goes well, the new complex will be complete at the end of the year, Housing Authority Executive Director Linda McDonnell said.
As the buildings take shape, excitement is building among Housing Authority board members.
“This is such a fresh start for the people,” board member Ruth Stanley said at the Housing Authority’s April 5 meeting.
The other board members agreed. The new two- and three-bedroom townhomes will give tenants a new start.
Each apartment will come equipped with a refrigerator, range and dishwasher. It will have its own driveway and garage, and laundry hookups. Without a parking lot and laundry rooms, there will be fewer places for drug deals and other problems that typically plague public housing, McDonnell said.
The old Oakland Terrace complex had become rife with crime, she told The Beacon. Toward the end, Housing Authority employees even had to have police escorts when they went to work in offices on the complex.
Tenants will still have to buy their own washers and dryers, as they did at Oakland Terrace. McDonnell noted Habitat for Humanity and other places sell used laundry machines, and rental centers offer them.
In the long run, it’s cheaper than feeding coin-operated washers and dryers, McDonnell said.
When it’s complete, Laurel Villas will feature a community room, a clubroom, units for active seniors, and Housing Authority offices at the corner of Garfield and Voorhis avenues.
The developer/builder, Picerne, will manage the complex for the Housing Authority, and is contributing the garage doors for the units, McDonnell said. Picerne, a national company that also builds military housing through another division, has a regional office in Altamonte Springs.
Who will live in Laurel Villas?
HUD rules limit public housing to low-income families and individuals.
In DeLand, that generally means a very low income — no more than 30 percent of the median income of $56,000. That works out to a maximum of $16,800 for a family of four, based on 2010 figures.
Rent at Laurel Villas will be based on 30 percent of the family’s anticipated gross income, less deductions. Deductions include $400 a year for each child under the age of 18, and $400 for an elderly person, or a person with disabilities.
A utility allowance is factored into the equation. The tenant is responsible for paying the utility bills.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens or have immigration status that makes them eligible for public housing.
The Housing Authority will check references, including criminal records. A lease is required.
The total projected cost for construction of Laurel Villas is $21.3 million, including a $1.53 million developer’s fee and a $825,295 co-development fee that will be paid to the DeLand Housing Authority.
HUD has issued the DeLand Housing Authority around $365,000 a year in replacement-housing funds for the past three years, to help build replacements for the demolished units at Oakland Terrace. Other public sources, including $10.9 million in tax-credit equity and a small amount from Volusia County, make up the $21.3 million budget for Laurel Villas.
The Housing Authority can get the replacement funds for up to 10 years, as long as they remain eligible and Congress provides the money.
What about Section 8 vouchers?
As noted, the DeLand Housing Authority’s waiting list for Section 8 vouchers is closed.
Section 8 helps people get housing in the private market. Participants can find their own housing, including single-family homes, as long as the housing meets Section 8 requirements for decent, safe and sanitary housing. The landlord must agree to program requirements, and must sign a contract.
The DeLand Housing Authority receives money from HUD to issue a voucher to help pay the rent for a participating family. The family pays the difference between the actual rent and the amount of the voucher.
The amount of the voucher is determined by family size, family income, assets and other information.
To qualify, HUD guidelines say the family income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area.
But, by law, each Public Housing Authority must provide 75 percent of its vouchers to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the median income. In Volusia County, that’s $16,800 for a family of four.
McDonnell described the demand for Section 8 vouchers as “unbelievable.”
“People are calling and crying,” she said.
But, she said, the Housing Authority doesn’t have funding for any additional vouchers. Applications are not being accepted. When they are accepted again, eligible families will be put on a waiting list.
Funding won’t be increased anytime soon.
Orlando Field Office Director Buz Ausley said the 2010 Section 8 operating budget was funded at 103 percent. In 2009, it was funded at 88.42 percent.
A “complicated benchmarking process” based on the number and cost of vouchers issued during a prior period is used to figure funding levels, he said.
According to a February HUD news release, HUD will simplify and clarify Section 8’s rent-setting provisions in the coming year. HUD also plans to include $200 million in the new budget for a pilot program converting up to 255,000 public-housing units to long-term rental-assistance contracts. This will give housing authorities capital to make repairs.
What will be the effect on local housing authorities?
“Until HUD has an approved budget there is no way to know how much will be available for each program. The impact will be different for each housing authority,” Ausley wrote in an e-mail.
In the July 27 request for the board’s approval of the annual budget, McDonnell said, “HUD has been ‘playing’ with Section 8 funding partially due to the use of some of their funding for the cost of the War, and no one knows where HUD will be going next year, as there are so many people in Congress who want part of HUD’s budget.”
Ausley said, “HUD funding of projects is subject to appropriation (the President’s budget) and HUD’s budget. Once the funds have been appropriated to the housing authorities, it does not decrease.”
For the fiscal year ending June 30, the DeLand Housing Authority’s operating budget for Section 8 is $640,100.
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