Anniston Housing Authority working to solve mystery of 24 units in Hobson City
by Paige Rentz
Feb 07, 2013 | 5352 views |  0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Twenty-four Hobson City rental units are puzzling two local housing authorities.

Last month Willie “Sonny” McMahand, executive director of the Anniston Housing Authority, told the Board of Commissioners that their agency could be on the hook for $40,000 for the affordable housing units in Hobson City.

Neither of the authority directors knows how Anniston came to own and operate units that lie within a few blocks of Hobson City Housing Authority. Herman Stewart has been executive director in Hobson City for about five years, but McMahand only took his post in December.

McMahand said he’s still going through all the information he’s received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but he said he believes paying the $40,000 to the federal agency might be Anniston’s responsibility. Gloria Shanahan, a spokeswoman for HUD, said the figure, which is connected to a second mortgage on the property, was based on a review of the authority’s 2010 audited statements.

“We’re validating that number,” McMahand said. “HUD’s giving us an opportunity to go through on our end and make sure that’s the right number.”

Despite the questions, Stewart does know one thing: His agency isn’t interested in merging with Anniston’s authority.

“Hobson’s City’s board is not interested in allowing the Anniston Housing Authority to absorb or take over Hobson City Housing Authority at this time,” Stewart said.

However, he did say Hobson City might have an interest in assuming control of the 24 units. Because Hobson City currently operates only about 60 units, it’s more difficult to cover administrative costs based on the funding the authority receives. He converted his own position to part-time for this reason, he said. Adding the 24 Section 8 units — apartments owned by private landlords for which local authorities provide a subsidy — to the Hobson City inventory could help boost the authority’s income and create more of an economy of scale.

Before Stewart and the Hobson City board of commissioners explore such an idea, however, he would have to review the financial and physical conditions of the property, he said. McMahand said he was in the process of sorting through the information and would provide a report to the Anniston Board of Commissioners at its February meeting.

According to Shanahan, Hobson City Apartments is listed as the owner of the property and has contracted with the Housing Development Corporation to provide management services for the property, and as such, Housing Development Corporation maintains the project operating account on behalf of the owner.

“This account is specifically for the operations of the property,” she said via email. “The account is not ‘the property’ of the housing authority, nor should they have ‘control’ of it.”

The board of directors for Hobson City Apartments has become inactive, and McMahand said one of the issues he’s currently working through is how to revive it.

McMahand said that the Anniston Housing Authority’s nonprofit affiliate, the Housing Development Corporation, is an umbrella organization under which the nonprofit Hobson City Apartments Inc. operates. The arrangement, he said, is pretty common and grants authorities flexibility in the types of property they can offer.

The Anniston Housing Authority operates about 1,000 units of public and affordable housing units. McMahand said the Housing Development Corporation operates the 24 Hobson City Apartments and an additional 56 tax-credit units at Southern Ridge, a community for senior citizens.

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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