Tag Archives: housing

Bill blocks affordable housing mandates

Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Ferrell Haile have introduced a bill that would prohibit local governments from requiring that affordably-priced homes be included in new residential projects, reports The Tennessean.

Tennessee already has a law that says local municipalities can’t control the cost of rent. Whether that restricts local governments from adopting a zoning policy that mandates affordable housing units be included in new apartment projects has been debated.

Casada’s bill would erase any doubt by explicitly prohibiting local governments from enacting affordable housing mandates over rental properties as well as for-sale homes.

“I would contend that wherever they’re implemented, it drives homebuilders out of that community and thus it drives up the cost of homes,” Casada said of the local policies that he wants to ban. “What we’re trying to do is to stop the inflated pricing and structure and let the free market continue to work. The free market can solve the problems, not government.”

Though the bill (HB1632) appears to be directed foremost at Nashville, Casada said the legislation is a response to “a movement nationwide” of cities requiring that developers pursue affordable or workforce housing. Casada, who said his effort has support of chambers of commerce and others in the business community, called the legislation one of his “top-tier bills” that he hopes to pass this legislative session.

“Everyone who has read Tennessee law feels like Nashville, or any other community, cannot do this,” he said of mandatory inclusionary zoning. “We’re just making it very clear that they cannot.”

THDA to spend $1.5M patching homes

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency has a new $1.5 million home repair program targeting older houses in economically challenged counties, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Gov. Bill Haslam has agreed to commit $500,000 of Appalachian Regional Commission funding to the pilot program, while THDA will match the state’s pledge with $1 million of its own funds in order to launch the program early next year.

The program will help patch roofs, fix wiring, update plumbing, and make other repairs for Appalachian families who cannot afford to bring their homes up to code on their own, according to THDA Executive Director Ralph Perrey.

“The Appalachian region includes some areas of Tennessee that are among the most difficult for state agencies to serve despite a high number of families in need,” Perrey said in a prepared release. “It’s important to be creative in order to reach these families, and this program provides us with a unique opportunity to meet that goal.”

This is the first time the state of Tennessee has committed a portion of its ARC funding to a THDA housing program. Under the program, state dollars will be dedicated to 12 so-called “distressed” counties as identified by ARC. The $1 million in THDA funding will be allocated in these areas along with 19 other counties identified by ARC as “at risk.”

…Distressed ARC counties in Tennessee include Bledsoe, Campbell, Cocke, Fentress, Grundy, Hancock, Johnson, Lewis, Pickett, Rhea, Scott, and Van Buren.

At-Risk ARC counties include Carter, Claiborne, Clay, Grainger, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Macon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Overton, Polk, Unicoi, Union, Warren, and White.

Roe-requested report finds ‘over income’ families in public housing

A government watchdog investigation requested by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe has found that thousands of families across the United States, including 545 in Tennessee, are living in public housing even though their income exceeds eligibility requirements, reports Michael Collins.

The inspector general’s report showed that 25,226 “over-income” families live in government-subsidized housing, even though more than half of them had income that was $10,000 above the eligibility threshold.

Yet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has no plans to kick them out because its policies don’t require them to leave.

“This condition occurred because HUD regulations require families to meet eligibility income limits only when they are admitted to the public housing program,” the report said. “The regulations do not limit the length of time that families may reside in public housing.”

The report estimated that HUD will pay as much as $104.4 million over the next year for public housing units occupied by over-income families — money that otherwise could have been used to house eligible low-income families in need of housing assistance.

Roe, a Johnson City Republican, said he was concerned by the findings.

“It seems to me that we should focus limited taxpayer resources on those with the most need,” Roe said. “My staff and I are reviewing the report’s conclusions to determine what changes need to be made.”

…In Tennessee, the report found that 16 “over-income” families live in public housing in the Johnson City Housing Authority even as 211 needy families are on a waiting list for housing. The report did not provide information for Tennessee’s other housing authorities.

In its response, HUD called the report flawed and said it “over emphasizes” the problem. “Over-income” families represent just 2.6 percent of the 1.1 million families who live in public housing, wrote Milan Ozdinec, deputy secretary of HUD’s office of public housing and voucher programs.

What’s more, “there are positive social benefits from having families with varying income levels residing in the same property,” Ozdinec said.

Comptroller: $229K stolen from public housing

News release from state comptroller’s office:
A special investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has revealed that at least $228,980 was stolen from the South Pittsburg Housing Authority and the South Pittsburg Elderly Housing Authority over a four-year period.

Investigators found that two former employees are responsible for the vast majority of the misappropriation.

Former accounting director Jan Brooks used at least three schemes to steal at least $127,980 from the housing authorities. These schemes included making at least $100,368 in personal purchases on a housing authority credit card. These purchases included hotel stays in Las Vegas, New Orleans, and at a casino in Mississippi.
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HUD renews $18M in grants to TN homeless housing and service projects

News release from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:
KNOXVILLE – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced $18,117,733 in grants to renew support 140 local homeless housing and service programs in Tennessee. Provided through HUD’s Continuum of Care Program, the funding announced today will ensure these local projects remain operating in the coming year, providing critically needed housing and support services to those persons and families experiencing homelessness.

These grants support a variety of programs including street outreach, client assessment, and direct housing assistance to individuals and families with children who are experiencing homelessness. HUD will award additional grant funding to support hundreds of other local programs in the coming weeks. View a complete list of local homeless projects awarded funding.

“Whether it’s helping to rapidly re-house families with young children or finding a permanent home for an individual with serious health conditions, HUD is working with our local partners to end homelessness as we know it,” said Donovan. “Over the last few years we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in America, but we need bipartisan support from Congress to fully fund proven strategies that have created this downward trend. The evidence is clear that the cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of finding real housing solutions for those who might otherwise be living on our streets.”

“The fight to end homelessness continues and this critical support for those individuals and families suffering from homelessness is absolutely essential if we are to achieve victory and end chronic homelessness,” said HUD Southeast Region Regional Administrator Ed Jennings, Jr “We are embarking on a new chapter in this ongoing effort and success is in sight as we collaboratively work together to help those that need our help so very much.”
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THDA changes tax credit program for low-income housing

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency has eliminated a controversial aspect of its system for awarding tax credits and instead will make decisions based on a score assigned to each of the state’s 95 counties based on its need for low-income housing.

The THDA board approved the change last week following criticism of the tax credit program from House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. Mike Blade, director of THDA’s multifamily development division, said it had been in the works for months and was discussed at THDA’s July board meeting, though a decision was postponed until the September meeting.

Turner, citing two East Tennessee projects approved earlier this year, contended the present system “encourages people, if not to cheat, to at least push the envelope to the very edge.”

In recent years, Tennessee has been receiving about $14 million in annual federal corporate tax credits for allocation by THDA to low-income housing. The credits are almost the equivalent of cash, typically sold — perhaps for around 85 cents on the dollar — by developers who win them.

That substantially reduces the amount of money the developer has to borrow to build a project which, in turn, substantially reduces the amount of rent people living in the projects must pay for the developer to earn a profit.
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LIHEAP Moves from DHS to THDA

News release from state Department of Human Services:
NASHVILLE, TN (June 17, 2013) – New Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) applicants will need to apply on October 1 instead of July 1. Administration of the federal program designed to assist households of low income pay utility bills will be transferred from the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) to the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) effective October 1, 2013.
Given LIHEAP’s transition to THDA, funds offered through the program will now be awarded to coincide with the federal fiscal year beginning October 1.
“Transitioning LIHEAP was identified during our Customer Focused Government process, formally known as the Top to Bottom Review, as a potential opportunity to increase efficiency and effectiveness in service to the people of Tennessee, said Department of Human Services’ Commissioner Raquel Hatter. “DHS is excited about this transition to improve customer service through better service alignment. We look forward to continued collaboration with community partners and THDA.”

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Yager Says THDA Will Get Special Scrutiny

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE – State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), Chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said today he has put the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) on notice regarding his committee’s intentions to carefully review their spending practices. THDA came under fire after lavish spending on employee-related activities was uncovered in an investigative report by WTVF-TV in Nashville. The State and Local Government Committee reviews THDA’s budget and is responsible for recommending changes to the full Senate in the agency’s spending plan.
“It is essential that not only you but also the entire agency recognize that THDA is a state agency,” said Chairman Yager in a letter to Perrey. “This demands the agency have the fiscal discipline that is expected of every state agency. In fact, the nature of the agency’s work is such that it should be held to an even higher standard.”
“The Senate Committee I chair on State and Local Government will be reviewing the progress you make in implementing needed reforms in the coming months,” the letter continued.
THDA was created by the General Assembly in 1973 to provide housing assistance to Tennesseans in need by offering a variety of housing-related programs, especially for those with low incomes. Until October, the agency was led by Executive Director Ted Fellman.
Perrey was questioned by Yager on Monday regarding the expenditures at a meeting of the Joint Fiscal Review Committee, which also has legislative oversight responsibilities for state spending.
“We’ve lost sight of the good you do because of these outrageous activities that were funded through your budget,” Yager told Perrey at that hearing.
He also asked Perrey about whether he expressed concerns as a former THDA Board member before being selected as the new Executive Director. Perrey said he was not aware of some of the more lavish expenditures but pledged that they would not be repeated.
“Director Perrey has given us his word that the Agency will not repeat these excessive expenditures and we are going to hold him to that,” added Yager. “We will be holding THDA fully accountable for the dollars they spend.”

New THDA Chief Pledges Less ‘Employee Appreciation’

State lawmakers are taking the Tennessee Housing Development Agency to task for tens of thousands of dollars spent on arcade outings and stretch limos, reports WPLN.
THDA’s new director appeared before the Fiscal Review Committee Monday. Agency chief Ralph Perrey says now that he’s at the helm – quote – “what you will not see is us spending money to treat ourselves.”
THDA now estimates $75,000 was spent over the last two years on rewards. But before becoming executive director this month, Perrey was on the THDA board. So lawmakers ask why he didn’t act then.
“I was aware that we were doing some employee appreciation events. That didn’t raise a red flag to me when I heard it. It should have.”

See also a report on the hearing from Phil Williams, who first pointed out the spending on employee appreciation.

THDA Spending on Employees ‘Having Fun’ Faulted

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency, created to help in financing home for low and modest income Tennesseans, also spends “tens of thousands of dollars having fun,” according to WTVF-TV’s Phil Williams. But it’s called “employee development.”
So, this past summer, the entire office took off to go to Dave & Busters.
In addition to a full-course, lunch buffet, each employee also got $40 for video games or for bowling.
The total cost: $9,939.
“The people who work in accounting get to know the people who work in tax credits,” Smith explained. “The people who work in housing management get to know the people in public affairs.”
“Can they not get to know each other here at the office?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
“Yes — it’s a little crowded here,” she answered.
To celebrate Fellman’s 50th birthday, THDA bought enough balloons to fill up the boss’ office. They hired a balloon artist, as well as a caterer to serve up banana pudding.
The price tag: $1,300.
For administrative professionals day, the agency brought in a stretch limo just to take its secretaries out to lunch.
The limo by itself: $641.