$40,000 question: Housing Authority mulls what to do with Hobson City units
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Jan 26, 2013 | 4599 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A corporation created about 10 years ago to buy 24 apartment homes in Hobson City is creating a headache for the Anniston Housing Authority now because the authority might owe the federal government $40,000 for them.

Housing Development Corp. was established by a former executive director of the Anniston Housing Authority. The apartment homes it was set up to buy, and which it still owns, are considered affordable housing, but they don’t fit within the realm of public housing, said Willie “Sonny” McMahand, executive director of the AHA. Some housing authorities set up corporations to allow them the flexibility to offer other types of housing to the communities they serve, he said.

McMahand said the corporation in this instance should have its own board, but that board has become inactive and its members have moved on.

Gloria Shanahan, of the public affairs office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said she was not familiar with Housing Development Corp. and could not comment specifically about it.

All but one of the apartments are currently occupied, but they do need some work, including a new roof, McMahand said.

The Hobson City apartments were a newly constructed property the corporation bought from another developer and there is a mortgage on the property, McMahand said. The property has funding from HUD’s Section 8 subsidized housing program and has money in an account. But because the corporation’s board is inactive that money is inaccessible, he said.

Still, he said, he’s not sure why the AHA owes money in this case. He told the authority’s Board of Commissioners at a Thursday meeting the matter came to his attention because HUD contacted him.

“Bottom line, they’re looking for a check from the Housing Authority for $40,000,” he said.

He’s trying to unravel the events that led up to the alleged debt, he said.

Another question is whether AHA should continue to manage the units. Hobson City has its own housing authority that manages 60 units, so it might not make sense for Anniston to manage its own batch of 24 in that jurisdiction; they could be given to Hobson City’s authority, McMahand said. On the other hand, there’s the possibility that AHA could absorb Hobson City’s 60 units.

What’s needed is a strategic development plan, McMahand said, and he’s analyzing the structure of AHA from its administration to its public housing offerings.

“We’ve got to begin to think about what is the best solution for this housing authority,” he told the commissioners.

Attempts to reach the executive director of the Hobson City Housing Authority for comment Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.

For now, McMahand suggested to the commissioners that they appoint three people to the defunct corporation board. Commissioner James Smith asked McMahand research the matter and report back to the commissioners for possible action at their next meeting in February.

In other business the commissioners:

• Discussed the Public Housing Assessment System which HUD uses to grade the authorities. Last year’s total score was 83 out of 100, standard performing. In December, McMahand estimated this year’s score will drop to 78.9 mainly because of the number of tenants not paying their rent and occupancy which is running about 95 percent. McMahand estimated the Housing Authority would receive a 0 out of 5 available points for tenant rent payments and 8 out of 16 available points for occupancy. The authority will be assessed again at the end of its fiscal year, March 31.

• Discussed the Section 8 subsidized housing program which McMahand would like to expand. The Housing Authority is funded for up to 258 households. However, the money only stretches to about 200 households. A city Anniston’s size should have about 400, McMahand said. He hopes to apply for more if the funding becomes available. In the meantime, the authority will start taking applications for Section 8 housing in March and can then gauge the need in the community, McMahand said.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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