Policy approved by housing authority board

EAST LIVERPOOL — In an effort to prevent abuse of a long-time practice in their

housing units, the Columbiana-Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) board this week approved a new policy regarding live-in aides.

Executive Director Bernie Bennett said live-in aides have been permitted in CMHA rental properties for as the agency has been in existence and are considered a “reasonable accommodation” by HUD when a family member is in need of care.

A live-in aide does not have to pay rent, nor is that person’s income taken into consideration in establishing the rental cost for the unit.

Bennett said although a background check is conducted of live-in aides prior to them being allowed to move in, the actual process for acquiring such an aide consisted of a doctor signing a form saying an aide is a necessity.

He said it has always seemed “too vague,” with no information regarding how long the aide is actually required.

“Currently, the system is, if there is a live-in aide, it’s forever,” Bennett said.

The new policy adopted by the board requires more information from the medical professional, such as during what hours such assistance is required, how many days per week, the length the aide will be required (such as one to three months to indefinitely), and any special qualifications required to meet the patient’s needs, such as an LPN, RN, physical therapist, able to speak other languages.

Request for approval forms to be completed by the tenant includes questions about the potential aide’s background.

“We’re trying for a screened, thoroughly-vetted, compassionate system. I think (the new policy) is thorough but not invasive, and it protects the CMHA,” Bennett told the board.

He explained the agency does not want someone move in with a tenant and be termed a live-in aide just as a way to avoid their income from counting toward rental income requirements.

Bennett said they see about two or three applications for live-in aides per year.

In financial matters, Bennett told board members due to a bookkeeping error, budgetary numbers presented during his financial report last month were inaccurate and “not as bad as it looked.”

He said after reviewing the numbers following the meeting, they seemed low and it was discovered some income was not entered. He assured the board all funds are accounted for, they “just weren’t entered correctly” and the matter has been addressed and corrected.

The board discussed briefly the possible need in the future of borrowing funds for improving some of its properties.

Bennett said it may require the board “having the fortitude of saying it will look at taking out a $2 million loan to make its 50-year-old properties viable,” saying Woodland Hills is in the greatest need of infrastructure replacements.

Member Judy Fannin questioned whether it is even feasible to bring the units up to where they should be, which Bennett said was a “good question,” adding, “They very well might not be. Are we better off to build 85 to 100 new units for low income housing?”

Currently, there are six vacancies among the CMHA’s 479 units, which Bennett called “very healthy,” noting, “If we stay out of the double digits, we’ll score well. Full occupancy is our goal.”

President Ed Croxall praised Bennett for “listening to me when I call you with a problem,” referring to a tenant who called him about issues he was having that Croxall said seemed to have been addressed.

Bennett said that, rather than relocate that tenant, disciplinary steps were taken against the other tenant who was causing the disruption.

“We want satisfied customers,” Bennett said.