What does your job entail on a daily basis? I oversee the operations of the Columbia Housing Authority, which includes the Public Housing and the Housing Choice Voucher programs, our extensive Resident Services and Family Self-Sufficiency programs and our Affordable Housing Initiative.
How many people utilize Columbia Housing Authority’s services each year? In 2013, the CHA served the following number of families: Public Housing: 1,575 persons in 839 households and 264 families, which included 557 children; Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8):3,441 persons in 1,317 households and788 families, which included 1,754 children.
Can you explain the Housing Choice Voucher Program? In the 1950s, Urban Renewal allowed cities to replace unsanitary and poor living conditions with new Public Housing units. Unfortunately, concentrating the poorest of the poor in the same location didn’t work very well, and often these Public Housing units were constructed in areas that didn’t have good access to jobs, transportation, schools and goods and services.In the 1970s, the Housing Choice Voucher Program (known as “Section 8”) was implemented to replace the Public Housing program.
The HCV program issues a housing voucher to an income-eligible family. The family can then use the voucher to rent housing from the private market. This allows the family more choice in the location of their housing (near work, school, family, transportation, etc.) as well as achieving the purpose of de-concentrating poverty in the community.
It seems like there are often misconceptions about Section 8 housing programs, particularly involving crime and poor property maintenance. What does CHA do to dispel these misconceptions? The CHA works very closely with the Columbia Police Department and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department to identify any persons involved in violent or drug-related criminal activity who are receiving housing assistance or using the address of someone receiving housing assistance. We have a very strict Crime-Free Housing Addendum and will terminate housing assistance for violations.To ensure good property maintenance, we inspect all assisted properties on an annual basis.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about the Housing Choice Voucher Program is that certain neighborhoods are “Section 8 housing.” Because it is a voucher program, there is no specific housing or areas associated with a housing voucher. Any rental housing neighborhood can have a mix of assisted and non-assisted households.
How large is CHA’s staff? The CHA has 56 full-time employees and 18 part-time employees.
What do you wish Columbians knew about the CHA and its programs? Everyone wants to live in a safe neighborhood. Over the past eight years, I’ve worked hard to make our Public Housing neighborhoods safe while also expanding our Resident Services and Family Self-Sufficiency programs to give families the opportunity to work their way out of poverty. More than half of the people living in our Public Housing family sites are children under age 18. These children deserve to live in safe neighborhoods and have the chance to develop into productive adults.