Housing Authority voucher scores high in report

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ST. CROIX - The federal official overseeing the V.I. Housing Authority discussed a "report card" on the agency's Housing Choice Voucher program, received an update on the status of homeownership in William's Delight and approved two resolutions during a meeting on Wednesday.

Kimberly Wize, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official who acts as the V.I. Housing Authority's board, said that the authority's performance rating on its Housing Choice Voucher program, formerly called Section 8, is considered "high."

"There's no higher standard you can get than that," Wize said, praising staff.

HUD's Section 8 Management Assessment Program is designed to identify a Housing Authority's capabilities and deficiencies when it comes to administering Section 8, according to a letter dated Monday sent to Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham to notify him of the Housing Authority's score.

The Housing Authority earned 133 out of 140 possible points, which is 95 percent, meaning that the V.I. Housing Authority's performance falls into the "high" category, according to the letter.

"This is a milestone the Housing Authority has been trying to reach for a number of years," Graham said.

Graham said HUD's performance ratings across its programs fall into three categories, with 90 percent and above considered "high performance," 60 percent to 89 percent considered standard performance and below 60 percent considered substandard or troubled.

The letter shows that the Housing Authority missed two of 10 possible points on its "family self-sufficiency" score for Section 8 and missed five out of five points on its pre-contract housing quality standards inspections. The authority must address the issue of pre-contract inspections, according to the letter. In other areas, the scores were 100 percent.

The assessment of the Housing Authority's Public Housing component - which is done separately from the Section 8 program - has not yet been completed for 2013, according to Graham. The agency's 2012 score for Public Housing came in at 64 percent, which falls in the standard performance range.

William's Delight

In other discussion, Graham told Wize that the newest version of a homeownership program in William's Delight finally had its first closing last week.

Longtime William's Delight resident Daphne Edwards closed on her home, officials said.

Edwards, who will be part of the Housing Authority board when the agency is returned to local control, has been pushing for an opportunity to buy a William's Delight home for a number of years. She attended Wednesday's meeting, and received congratulations all around.

Edward's home is one of 12 at William's Delight that is being sold to residents at this point.

Homeownership has long been an aspiration of William's Delight residents. For a brief time in 2001, residents of the public housing community were given that option, but the program came to an abrupt halt after only 14 of the houses had been purchased.

James P.G. Wakefield, president of the William's Delight tenants council, was also at the meeting and complained.

"Although a few individuals may gloat temporarily in hailing this occasion as seemingly a victory, it's not a victory, I want to make that clear," he said. "It's more an issue of creating more difficulty within our community on a social front."

The homeownership program, he contended, has created fragmentation. He said he did not approve this homeownership plan because it does not allow the poorest residents in William's Delight housing community to be able to afford to buy a home. He spoke at length about the issues he has with the current situation.

DeChabert Place demolition

In other action, Wize approved a resolution to amend a disposition/demolition application with HUD for the Ralph deChabert Place housing community.

The authority had already applied for the demolition of 111 dwelling units on 9.01 acres, and the disposition of 153 units on 10.02 acres. It solicited bids for the land and units for disposition, but the responses were less than the appraised value of the property, officials said.

Therefore, the application is being changed to allow for the demolition of all 264 units on the abandoned property.

Wize noted that the authority does not have the funding to do the demolition at this time, but getting the approval is a necessary first step.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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