HUD Released New Guidance on Housing the Re-Entry Folks

Breaking news from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty…

As part of President Obama’s announcements today on re-entry programs, HUD has sent guidance to Public Housing Authorities and owners of other HUD-assisted housing related to arrests and convictions.  This is a huge step in trying to ease people back into the communities after a period of time incarcerated.  There was also supporting sentencing reform and an effort to ban the box on federal job applications.

Here is the guidance, fresh off the presses:

In summary, it says:

  1. One-strike is not HUD policy
  2. Arrests are not sufficient evidence of criminal activity to support an adverse housing decision.
  3. Applicants and residents have due process rights if an adverse decision is being made based on criminal records.
  4. Apply any restrictions fairly and in accordance with civil rights laws.
  5. A list of best practices were also sent.

Many of us have advocated for this type of guidance for a long time and it is exciting to see it finally happen! The Law Center and the Fair Housing community will continue to push for more and broader guidance in the near future, particularly in the wake of the ICP Supreme Court case on disparate impact and the Fair Housing Act- which applies to all housing, not just HUD-assisted housing.

In the broader announcement, they are also announcing additional funding and programs to prevent/end the link between incarceration and unemployment and homelessness. We will have more details of this announcement in the future.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Interesting CAHA update on CMHA

The Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance Meeting took place last week and the big news was that CMHA is going to have to open the Section 8 (Housing Choice Voucher Program) waiting list.  The last time it was opened was 2011 and 10,000 names were drawn.  The problem is that the list is getting stale with most of the people on the list no longer around.  They either do not respond or have relocated or are no longer in need.  It is most likely that this summer they will have to re-open the waiting list for the voucher program in August or July. 

Everything will be pretty similar to 2011 with the application open for 5 to 7 days exclusively online (no paper applications).  Everyone in need of housing or who suspects they will need help with the rent between now and 2020 should apply.  We will have more details in the near future.

Public Housing officials also attended and reported that there are 9,600 total units in the Public Housing inventory with 99% occupied.  There are now 20,700 people waiting on the wait list with 70% waiting for a single bedroom. The current Public Housing list is 36% families and 23% seniors.  25% of the residents do not have income and 20% are on Social Security.  18% are employed and 17% are on some form of disability.  In a sign of how trivial cash assistance is now in the world only 2% of the total population receive assistance from the welfare department. 

CMHA is starting to rebuild Cedar Estates and renovate Bohn Tower and the former Garden Valley apartments.  They are working on the final phase of Carver Park and renovating Riverside Park.  Some of these properties are being renovated using private bank financing, which had been prohibited in the past. 

The President's budget is favorable toward the housing authorities, but who knows how that will play out by October.  The Housing Authority is working on how these newly created units developed with private dollars will integrate into the public housing system.  This current system has the highest number of occupied units since 1988.  The Housing Choice Voucher program has 14,000 participants and the program but is under utilized.  Most people are not showing up for their appointments to fill the voucher program and the waiting list is rather stale.  CMHA officials estimate that they will exhaust the Housing Choice Voucher waiting list in May of this year. 

The Voucher program is working with the long term homeless, veterans and those aging out of the foster care system.  They are planning to assist with the Pay for Success program to keep the time spent in foster care down.   There are 60 to 70 who leave the program every month and there are only 2,700 left on the 2011 waiting list.  There are 305 in the Veterans program and more to give out. 

The next CAHA meeting will feature Bill Faith of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio on April 6, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Social Engineering Article in the Plain Dealer

There was a strange and long article in the Plain Dealer last week from Stephen Koff regarding "social engineering"  at the Department of Housing and Urban Development that you might have missed.  The article suggests that enforcing a Civil Rights era law could be "social engineering."  Then a letter was published on Friday that shows the fear and mythology that has developed around the Housing Choice voucher program and Public Housing in our community.  First, the letter was highly offensive and incorrect, and should not have been printed in the paper.  Ms. Melillo has no proof that "incoming section 8 people bring their bad habits and culture with them--violence, drugs, prostitution, deterioration and loud music..."  A voucher holder can live anywhere in the community, and are not as concentrated as the Public Housing buildings in which 100% of the tenants are poor.

She goes on to misstate the population as not having been born here and do not own property.  This seems like either a criticism of absentee landlords or tenants in general, because it is clear that most recipients of a housing voucher are Clevelanders who may have to relocate to a new neighborhood but grew up in the area.  They have a hard time finding a landlord who will accept a voucher with a property that can pass Housing Quality Standards. Landlords need to maintain their properties not tenants.  Then she goes onto mischaracterize Habitat for Humanity, which does provide on-going support to their mortgage holders to help them with housing maintenance issues.  To answer your question Ms. Melillo, these people are here because they need housing and the vast majority are law abiding good neighbors.  You need to look at your own prejudices and misdirected anger to understand why you have this bias against people who you perceive as different than you. 

Mr. Koff's article does not touch on the racisim, classism and government obstacles put in the way of developing affordable housing outside of the urban core.  The letter in response to Koff's article shows how hardened stereotypes are in this community toward clients of CMHA.  The HUD Secretary can gather all the data he or she wants, but in the end if Cleveland Hts demands to know every Section 8 tenant in their city or the Lakewood Mayor runs on a platform to reduce the number of "Section 8 tenants" in his city, there is no way to de-concentrate, social engineer or reduce segregation.  This is common sense that we should have every opportunity for disadvantaged populations to move to neighborhoods in which they will have a better chance for success.  The problem is that these suburban communities do everything they can to block the development of affordable housing.  It is so difficult and expensive to bring a case forward against a community that is violating the 1968 Fair Housing Act. 

The Housing Center in Cleveland does a job training and informing tenants about their rights.  They challenge buildings that are built without access for disabled individuals, and protect against "redlining" in the insurance and mortgage markets, but the problem is so overwhelming and complicated.  In nearly every suburban community and in the City of Cleveland, the Housing Authority has to turn over the list of Housing Choice voucher holders to the local Community Development departments.  What these government officials do with this data is unclear and not spelled out in the agreement.  In addition, there are no fixed shelters outside the City of Cleveland, so poor people in the suburbs who lose their housing have to go to another City for help.  There are very few subsidized housing units developed outside the City of Cleveland, because of community opposition.   No matter how many stats one community gathers the concentration of poor people in a few communities will not change.  The City of Cincinnati in a cutting off their nose response banned the development of affordable housing until the suburban communities began developing affordable housing.

What happens if we use the evidence provided by HUD to show that we should not build any more affordable housing in the Central, Mt. Pleasant or Glenville neighborhoods?  We won't have any affordable housing left.  The current housing needs replaced and if we wait until Ms. Melillo and  her kind accept public housing residents we will have to double or triple the number of emergency shelter beds.   We need a percentage of every development in the community to also develop affordable properties.  So, if Solon offers infrastructure improvements (roads, water, sewer, telephone) for a 30 unit housing development five of those units should be sold or offered to low income tenants or mortgage holders. 

I live next to a Housing Choice Voucher holder and have for years.  The tenants are fine quiet people trying to earn enough money to get a better place.  The landlord is the problem.  The landlord does not keep up his property.  He does not mow the lawn.  He is slow to do maintenance on the property.  He took out the sidewalk and replaced part of it at the request of the City, and just piled up the old broken up sidewalk behind his garage.  He fixed up the place to pass inspection, but does not maintain the place.  He gets paid by the government every month the same amount of money, and he is not keeping his property up to the standard of the neighborhood.  But, this can happen with some homeowners as well who you may not get along with or those struggling with finding regular employment.  I don't think my neighbor is representative of the Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8), and I don't think it is fair to point to a "culture" of a person or those who get help with their rent as representative of anything. Bad neighbors come in all races, backgrounds, and economic levels.  Be glad if you have good neighbors because you never know. 

The Plain Dealer article fails to take into account the local reality.  The Plain Dealer does not look at all the barriers to affordable housing.  All the historical attempts to keep blacks in certain neighborhoods are not discussed.  Finally, we are never going to advance equality issues if we are stuck on labelling the tools for implementing civil rights era legislation as "social engineering."  How do we begin to talk about Fair Housing II with greater protections for lesbian and gay renters or source of income protections, when we can't even agree that forcing all the poor people to live in the same neighborhood doesn't help anyone?

Upcoming Affordable Housing Meetings

Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance Meeting features a focus on Public Housing and Vouchers for the March 4, 2013 meeting.  Then in April two County offices look at Homelessness and Housing Development activities and finally Bill Faith from COHHIO will present at the May meeting.  All are welcome to attend to learn more about affordable housing locally.

CAHA is always the first Monday of the month unless there is a federal holiday.  It is hosted by HUD at 1350 Euclid Ave.

Brian Davis

Post reflect the opinions of those who sign the entry.