As of Nov. 1 residents living in Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority Section 8 units should see a decline in their monthly rental payments. That was the prediction of Marye Ish, ARHA's Director of Housing Operations.
"Most housing authorities have gone back up to 110 percent of the current Fair Market Rents Applicable Payment Standards (APS). We have not. The percentage increase was recently approved by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development)," she told the ARHA Board of Commissioners at their meeting Monday night.
"Raising this percentage means that our families will pay less and we (ARHA) will pay more. But, that is not ARHA money, it is HUD money," she explained.
The 10 percent increase in rent standards means that landlords will be able to receive 10 percent more for their Section 8 units. This should make more units available at a more attractive price to owners, according to Ish. ARHA will be paying more to the landlords out of their Housing Assistance Payments from HUD.
HUD allows each Housing Authority to set the APS within 90 to 110 percent to "increase a Section 8 family's ability to lease a unit within their jurisdiction," according to an explanatory memorandum to the Board from ARHA Executive Director William Dearman.
"The APS are used to determine the amount of rent ARHA will pay on behalf of the family towards their contract rent. When HUD reduced the budget authority for ARHA three years ago the APS was lowered from 110 percent to 100 percent to save money and avoid having to terminate any families from the Section 8 program. This increased the amount each family paid for rent and utilities," Dearman explained.
It also had the impact of reducing the number of available units families could afford because they can only pay 40 percent of their income toward rent. "Families are taking longer to locate units within Alexandria and many have to move out of the City to find affordable housing," he noted.
HUD is now encouraging housing authorities to go back up to the 110 percent level "so families can have an increased chance of using Section 8 vouchers to locate affordable housing." The Board approved the change unanimously.
THE OTHER PRIMARY TOPIC of discussion at the Oct. 30 meeting was progress on the Glebe Park redevelopment concept. It was announced by Brian Jackson, development executive, Eakin Youngentab, the firm partnering with ARHA on the Glebe Park project, that a pre-development agreement had been reached.
He also noted that some changes had been proposed to the plan since EYA's meeting with the Board in September. However, he assured the Board that the "first two phases of the project would still concentrate on redeveloping Glebe Park."
Since the September unveiling of the concept several meetings have been held with residents to get their input and explain the process. When questioned by ARHA Commissioner Ruby Tucker as to the residents' reaction, Jackson replied, "Generally, their feeling are very positive."
However, Commissioner Peter Lawson expressed frustration that the ARHA Board did not have any particulars about the proposed concept. "When are we going to be able to have meaningful input to this plan?" he asked.
"I'm concerned about the Board having no input. We need to think about and discuss all the various options. I haven't seen one thing on the economics of this concept," Lawson said.
ARHA Vice Chairman Carlyle C. Ring, Jr. suggested the Board schedule a meeting for open dialogue on the concept and its various ramifications. Dearman was instructed to contact all the members to establish a mutually agreeable date. Commissioners Flemming, Hagan, and Powell were absent from Monday's meeting.
In other action, it was announced that ARHA's Chatham Square project had been awarded three Aurora Awards. The awards are affiliated with the Southeastern Builders Conference and the Florida Home Builders Association as one of the two regional trade shows recognized by and affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders.
ARHA's three trophies, presented to the Board by Jackson, were awarded in the categories of: Best in State of Virginia; Aurora Award; and Grand Aurora Award. The Chatham Square project was also featured in Builders Magazine as the cover story, according to EYA.