Dothan’s public housing complexes could experience some massive changes – including major renovations – as the Dothan Housing Authority has applied to join the Rental Assistance Demonstration program.
Through the program, which is based in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, approved public housing complexes will be converted to Section 8 housing. That allows DHA to exercise more control over property renovations and gives residents access to opportunities that promote home ownership, said Samuel Crawford, DHA executive director.
“RAD is an opportunity for the federal government to put the burden of capital improvements on our properties on us instead of on them,” he said. “They allow us to get into this RAD program where we can determine our own destiny and how much money we’re going to invest in these properties.”
The local control allows DHA to determine which properties fully join the RAD program or which ones only partially join it, Crawford said. Full participation allows DHA to seek community investments through tax credit programs and traditional financing, while partial participation limits DHA to conventional financing measures, he added.
The program benefits the federal government since it is approximately $26 billion behind on public housing upgrades by HUD’s own estimates. Delegating the responsibilities to local public housing authorities allows organizations like DHA to become property owners who dictate how and when upgrades occur.
In the arrangement, HUD still provides subsidized rental assistance – and rent amounts rarely change for tenants.
“There’s still a partnership there, but we have more control of our destiny: do these properties stay in deplorable conditions or do we make them look like people live there?” Crawford said.
Residents reap the benefits in several ways. The Section 8 program provides access to housing vouchers in one to two years, which means residents could relocate to other Section 8 properties.
Another program, called the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, provides some other major benefits.
“We’ll set aside a percentage – which is decided by the homeowner – and it builds equity upon milestones or achievements in the program,” Crawford said. “It becomes your money. I think the most recent one, one of our residents left with around $14,000. It’s pretty significant money.”
Additionally RAD renovations often completely change the look of a public housing complex, which is what DHA officials desire.
“(Government housing) comes with a stigma,” he said. “We’re now working with architects and designers to see what we could look like down the road. If it doesn’t transform it where you don’t recognize it, we don’t want it. These are no longer the projects and the baggage that comes with that.”
The Dothan Housing Authority submitted applications to HUD for all of its properties. HUD is still evaluating the applications through its rigorous process, but it appears either McRae Homes or Henry Green Apartments will be the first approved project, Crawford said.
DHA’s bank financing plans are due to HUD by Aug. 1. If they are approved, work could begin on the first initiative in the spring, Crawford said.