Housing Authority looks into RAD program

EAST LIVERPOOL — With an estimated $26 billion needed nationwide to repair and renovate public housing, Congress has created a program that could help housing authorities address those costs on a local level.

At this week’s meeting of the Columbiana-Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) board, members agreed to take the first step at looking at that Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program for its properties in this county.

Executive Director Bernie Bennett told board members about the RAD program, authorized by Congress in 2012, which he said “has gone gangbusters” since then, with about 200,000 units currently enrolled.

Simply put, the RAD program allows housing authorities to convert public housing into Section 8 properties, which then allows all the rental income to come directly to the housing authority.

Currently, a tenant is responsible for paying about 30 percent of their rent in a public housing unit, or about $85 per month, with the remaining $315 generated by HUD, which the housing authorities receive in monthly subsidies.

Bennett said the CMHA receives between $140,000 and $160,000 per month from HUD with which all bills have to be paid, whereas under the RAD program, he said, “We would get a check from the (Section 8) rental assistance program for the amount of rent owed.”

He said HUD does not have oversight of the Section 8 program, meaning the housing authority would have more control over where the money is spent, including renovations and repairs.

“There’s a reason everybody’s doing it. Funding is so much more stable under RAD,” Bennett told the board. “Things that get done with RAD would never get done under the current system.”

He said there is about a two-year waiting list for housing authorities that sign up to join the RAD program, and said the first step is sending a letter of intent, followed by submitting an application.

Board President Ed Croxall said they could always retract the application during the two-year wait time if their research turns up something they don’t like about the program.

The board agreed to send the letter of intent at this time.

Michael Olszewski, with James Zupka & Associates spoke to the board briefly about the on-going annual audit explaining the process and what auditors examine.

He said a risk-based approach is used but emphasized, “This is not a substitute for effective management.”

Olszewski said the audit results are due to the state for review by Dec. 31, although he said he hopes to have a draft report prepared for the board before then. A final report should be released some time in January or February.

He said there were no significant issues found in the last audit, with just a couple recommendations made to the CMHA and no findings.

Bennett assured the board that even verbal comments and management comments are taken seriously, saying, “If the auditors even suggest it – trusting them to be reasonable – we try to implement it.”

Croxall said he could not recall ever having a finding issued since he has been on the board.

The board’s next meeting is at 10 a.m. Dec. 20, followed by its Christmas luncheon at the East Liverpool Country Club.