Ypsilanti officials ask HUD to provide daily oversight for housing commission
The Ypsilanti City Council is requesting day-to-day oversight by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Ypsilanti Housing Commission.
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
Council members voted on the request Tuesday, saying they believe oversight might be the only effective way to change the way the YHC is managed.
On Monday, HUD decided against offering a third alternative to the YHC that would have enabled the commission to keep its Section 8 voucher program. The YHC received a notice July 23 from HUD that said its voucher program is facing a $228,407 shortfall in funding.
HUD urged the commission to voluntarily transfer the entire program to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
The YHC operates 218 public housing units and the commission has 271 Section 8 vouchers — not including the 68 that have yet to be made available for people seeking to live at Hamilton Crossing, the former Parkview Apartments at South Hamilton and Harriet.
The commission signed a resolution Monday enabling Interim Director Eric Temple to transfer the program to the MSHDA. HUD said the transfer may be effective permanently.
Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson said the transfer reflects badly on the commission and the city as well.
"I think it’s a sad state of affairs," Richardson said. "When the housing commission loses a program due to incompetent leadership, the city loses. We should have taken a more definite stance The fact that the city has potentially lost forever a housing program somewhat jeopardizes an $18 million project that is enhancing the entire region."
Temple told council at the meeting that by transferring the program, families using it will not be affected. The other option would have had severe effects, including rent increasing and families potentially losing their vouchers and subsequently, their homes.
“I know that’s a concern,” Temple said. “The vouchers will stay in the Ypsilanti community. The vouchers aren’t going to Michigan and going up north. This will just be an opportunity for the commission to focus on issues.”
Since the Section 8 program will no longer be managed by the YHC, it is unclear where or how Ypsilanti residents will apply for the program.
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
"They (MSHDA) had an office here, but it closed," Temple said. "Whether they will reassign someone here, we’re renegotiating that That will be one of the things I keep in mind."
The effects the transfer will have on the program remain to be seen. Some council members believe the loss of the program will have profound effects. Temple said he doesn't think the effects will be far-reaching but some cutbacks may be made.
"We all may have to go back and take some percentage costs," he said.
Residents and council members expressed frustrations with the way the situation has been handled thus far.
Ypsilanti resident Kim Anderson wanted to know why an oversight committee was not put in place to monitor the commission's business dealings.
Council member Michael Bodary said council has not had a voice in throughout the entire process.
“We just kind of sit back and watch like the rest of the city and get concerned with what’s going on,” he said.
The YHC is funded entirely by HUD and is a separate legal entity from the city. YHC commissioners are nominated by Mayor Paul Schreiber and approved by city council.
Council members repeatedly asked the conditions under which former YHC Executive Director Walter Norris retired and what his severance package amounted to. Norris retired Aug. 4 and Temple was appointed interim director the same day.
YHC Attorney David Blanchard said although the number is still being finalized, current estimates show Norris may be set to receive $58,464.
Blanchard said $31,000 of that package amounts to vacation, sick and leave time that was due to Norris.
Bodary said he thought the amount was excessive.
“What section of the contract does it say he’s entitled to severance pay?” Bodary said. “ I don’t understand where this is coming from. That’s a lot of time off that you’re getting paid extra for. I’d like to see those figures. What will HUD have to say about this?”
Blanchard said the amount contains “things Norris was entitled to and not entitled to.”
Blanchard declined to provide more specifics, but said the separation package will become a public document.
Since being appointed interim director, Temple said he now has an $80,000 salary—an increase of $10,000 from his previous salary as the YHC’s administrative specialist.
Ypsilanti School Board member Linda Horne said she has concerns with the way the changes might affect families-- especially with the start of the school year right around the corner.
"I think the residents deserve to hear some facts," she said. "Not having families know where they're going is pretty serious. When you read about this stuff, it jolts you."