Healthy Housing Authorities Make for Economical Government!
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
March 3, 2011

About a month ago, I began to wonder if there was a limit on the amount of time a person or family could stay in public or Section Eight housing. Much to my shock I found out that there is apparently no focused timeframe within which an able-bodied person must leave public housing! So I thought to share a few thoughts publicly to engage our community in seeing to it that this program is driven by merits as much as possible.

Lourdes Castro Ramirez leads the San Antonio Public Housing Authority and General Alfredo Valenzuela, the Bexar County Housing Authority. They both have stellar track records.

In the process of investigating the seeming limitless public housing entitlement, I discovered family sufficiency programs and apparently more recently, “Moving to Work” (MTW), currently in place with the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA). Three goals of the MTW are 1. self-sufficiency, 2. increased housing choices, and 3. programmatic efficiencies. I am for the present, going to focus on self-sufficiency.

I am sure that there are efforts being made by most housing authorities to build self-sufficiency within its tenant base for the sake of economy and of being able to reach the neediest and worthiest individuals and families. And I am sure that Moving to Work has elements within it that owing to their common sense, are already being promoted or implemented without the formality of being in the MTW program.

From information gleaned from the SAHA MTW Manager, 900 to 1,000 of the multi-thousands of tenants are in the self-sufficiency program which is a part of MTW. It would appear that this number should be considerably higher. Out of 3,300 public housing agencies in the U.S., only 33 or 1 percent are in the MTW program!

Furthermore, only two agencies in the U.S. are implementing time limits on the amount of time their tenants can remain renting from them. They are Delaware, which has a seven year time limit and Tulare, in the Washington area that has a five year limit. That means that neither SAHA nor Bexar County Housing Authority along with the overwhelming majority of housing authorities in the nation appear to have any limits on the amount of time that their tenants can stay in their facilities.

This is a very preliminary study of our two local housing authorities implementing Moving to Work and to the timeframe within which a tenant or tenants must leave their public housing facilities. One could very easily deduce that our housing projects would be much healthier with some strict guidelines within which the tenants should prepare to go to work and a deadline for the timeframe within which the tenants must leave the housing facility! And, we haven't even begun to address the positive fiscal impact of moving to self-sufficiency!

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