The Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority (SMHA), whose mission is to provide eligible residents of Stark County with quality affordable housing in decent, safe, and nourishing neighborhoods, is proud to announce that 48 households, which are a part of the Public Housing Program, have increased their earned income and are well on their way to achieving self-sufficiency. As defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. SMHA strives to provide affordable housing choices for families who meet the income eligibility requirements established by (HUD) and currently serves over 4,000 individuals and manages 2,546 public housing units.
Applying for Housing
Families wishing to apply for housing with Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority (SMHA) can access the online application by going to the SMHA website at www.starkmha.org. All applicants are screened for eligibility for the Public Housing Program. Applicants who are placed on the SMHA waiting list are assigned positions on the waiting list based on the local preferences that they are qualified to receive, as well as the date and time that they submitted their application. Once an applicant has risen to the top of the waiting list, they are pulled from the waiting list to begin the final eligibility screening.
The SMHA Waitlist
Currently, SMHA maintains 7 geographically focused waitlists; one for Alliance and Massillon, four for Canton, and one for outlying areas consisting of approximately 12,820 names—although some individuals are on multiple waiting lists, all who are in need of housing. Executive Director Herman Hill stated, “The need for affordable housing in Stark County is great, and the housing authority is committed to providing eligible residents with housing choices and opportunities”.
One key component in moving an individual from the waitlist into housing is income verification. Income limits are established by HUD, and in order to qualify for public housing, the gross income of individuals and families must be equal to or below these guidelines. For example, the gross income for a family of four cannot exceed $47,100 at the time in which they enter the public housing program. A complete list of income guidelines are available on SMHA’s website.
While all individuals and families met the eligibility requirements for the Public Housing Program when they entered the program, many have increased their earned income and due to hard work and determination have surpassed the gross income guidelines. “Many of our residents have enrolled in and completed education and job training programs which has opened the door for career advancement and employment opportunities. Through our partnerships with community organizations and government agencies, we have been able to assist residents with resources like transportation assistance, child care, and personal and professional development which increases their ability to achieve self-sufficiency”, Hill stated.
The issue of self-sufficiency and public housing is, by no means, a new topic of conversation with some even opposing “over-income” individuals and families who remain in public housing. The challenged faced by housing authorities nation-wide, including SMHA, is how best to address self-sufficiency in public housing—a subject that HUD has yet to make a final ruling on.
Some who oppose “over-income” individuals and families remaining housed in public housing, find fault with the housing authority for not removing and replacing them with those on the waitlist while others fault the individuals and families themselves who chose to remain in public housing.
In an interview with News Channel 5, Hill explains that the housing authority has diligently abided by HUD regulations which do not require agencies to evict public housing residents who have achieved self-sufficiency. “SMHA, under the guidance of HUD, will examine each individual case and each individual or family’s circumstances. Not any one family is alike”, Hill added, “The housing authority will continue to follow the guidelines set forth by HUD as well as the agency’s policies and procedures. At this time, individuals and families whose earned income exceeds the income guidelines while on the Public Housing Program are not in violation of HUD regulations, SMHA policy, or their lease”.
The need for affordable housing in Stark County is a concern of those on both sides of the debate; however, removing self-sufficient individuals and families is not the solution according to SMHA’s Director of Planning and Development, Darrell Davis. “It is the goal of the housing authority to help families achieve self-sufficiency and deconcentrate poverty. The issue with the waitlist is not those that are “over-income” individuals and families, Davis said, “It’s the time it takes to make a unit ready. We currently have a backlog of vacant units which require attention before a new family is able to be moved in”. SMHA has recently contracted with GB Hawk, an Akron based construction and remodeling company, to assist with unit turn-overs. “Until HUD approves a centralized maintenance staff, which will allow us to make units ready more efficiently and in less time, working with an outside company is our best option,” Davis said.
Veda Davis, Assistant Director of Asset Management, who has over 25 years of public housing experience stated, “From a regulatory standpoint, when residents achieve self-sufficiency it helps the housing authority meet HUD’s requirement to deconcentrate poverty”. The term deconcentration has become central to Federal housing policy. Like many other public housing authorities, SMHA have taken a proactive approach to maintaining income diversity within public housing developments, creating more sustainable communities and minimizing densely concentrated areas of poverty in the Stark County community. “When families are able to achieve self-sufficiency, it’s a positive for everyone,” Davis added.