Housing Authority asks county for $15000 PDF Print E-mail

Original Source: winchesternewsgazette.com


Commissioners hear, table request until need is better defined

Representatives of the Union City Housing Authority Monday requested $15,000 in financial assistance from the Randolph County Board of Commissioners to keep the agency viable. The agency provides rent assistance for area residents.

The commissioners tabled the request until more information is available and the need is better defined.

Housing Authority board member Al Heuss told commissioners the agency needs some help. Heuss said the Housing Authority's benefit to the Union City community has been substantial. Funds received for rental utility and administrative expenses have averaged more than $45,000 per month for the past three fiscal years. Heuss said the program has been of great benefit to landlords who have been approved for participation in the program. But, he said, for the program to expand, it needs to overcome an unspecified financial problem.

The Housing Authority is a rental assistance program established in. 1977 to use Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds to help needy families with the expense of affordable housing. The program also, in some cases, provides assistance with utility costs.

Ryan Chasey, president of the High Performance Government (HPG) Network, an agency hired to help the Housing Authority solve its crisis, outlined the agency's importance and its plan of action.

He said a part of the problem deals with a financial component related to the downtown UC building the housing authority purchased and moved into as its center for operations.

"Our primary goal is to preserve the housing authority as an asset for the county," Chasey said. "It is worthwhile for the families that will be impacted. The challenge is being able to fund that work going forward."

Chasey said Union City, Ind., has committed $10,000 to help preserve the housing authority and keep it viable. He requested $15,000 from the board of commissioners. He said the money would be used to perform a financial review, a pragmatic review and a legal review of the organization as well as to add additional services to serve county residents and to create sustainable 5-year plan.

"We also feel this will .be in the best interest of the county and county residents. Some deadlines are this week to be sure this asset is maintained for the county."

Chasey said the housing authority provides housing assistance vouchers for people who Jive in Union City as well as Lynn, Winchester, Parker City, Farmland and Ridgeville residents.

HPG Network representative Heather Presley-Cowin said she considers housing assistance to be an economic development tool for the area.

"Looking at high growth industries in the Union City, Ind., and Randolph County area, people who work in those jobs often have a wage that doesn't support home ownership." Presley-Cowin said. "This is one more tool in the tool kit for Randolph County residents (to support themselves)."

She said the housing authority operates separately from the city of Union City.

Heuss said the agency has considered expanding to become a Randolph County housing authority. He also said the authority provides more than just rental assistance.

"This is a very serious thing for the city," said Commissioner Noel "Bud" Carpenter.

County Auditor Mary Ann Lenkensdofer said there are no real funds available for the county to provide the requested assistance.

Chasey said if they don't meet their deadline, there is a danger they may lose the building as the bank has filed foreclosure notice. The building has three apartments that bring in rental income.

Heuss stressed the importance of maintaining a relationship with HUD so the voucher money continues flow. He said $120,000 is owed on the building.

Chasey said there will have to be negotiations with the bank and the authority has to look at ways to increase its income.

"If we put money into this, we need some sort of assurance that more won' t be needed next year," said Commissioner Bill Terrell.

Terrell suggested creating a Randolph County housing authority board.

"This is the first we've heard of this situation," said Commissioner Troy Prescott. "We need to see more information, including financials before we approve anything."

Prescott noted that the county council; as well as the commissioners, would have to approve any financial consideration pertaining to the county budget.

Terrell suggested that the issue be tabled until new commissioners take office after the first of the year and financial statements are presented.

"There 's no room in our budget to come up with this money," Terrell said.

Chasey said he won' t really know a lot more about the building if the issue is delayed. He said the story won't be drastically different after the first of next year.

"The impact is economic and the fact that it could be expanded is an important consideration," Heuss said. "We're looking for some help. It's beyond the expertise of the housing authority board to handle."

In other business. Randolph County YMCA Executive Director Ceann Bales updated the commissioners on the status of its childcare center expansion. She said three OCRA grants made the project possible.

"The exterior is nearly complete and drywall is installed inside," she said.

"According to the grant, we have to be in by June 1 and we have a very good cushion to make that date. It's looking wonderful. I can't wait to get in it with the kids.

It's coming along great. We're amazed by the progress."

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