Renters in Greenwood’s public housing units will continue to see protection from late fees and some evictions, as Greenwood Housing Authority officials voted Monday to extend these protections past their federal lifespan.
The GHA Board of Directors reviewed COVID-19 funding streams, along with operating procedures at its 12:30 p.m. meeting Monday at the John G. Lamb Community Enrichment Center. While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helped provide local housing authorities with additional operating funds, GHA Executive Director Patrick Prince said he’d like more guidance from the feds on how to account for these dollars.
“This is new to everybody, so even when they put the money out there, nobody in Washington and nobody in Congress has ever gone through this either,” Prince said. “The devil is in the details, and they don’t have many details to share because no one has been through this before.”
He said GHA is managing multiple funding streams for the public housing and Section 8 programs, and they’re all accounted for and managed differently. While the CARES Act, passed earlier this year, gave HUD funding to distribute, Prince said there are restrictions on how dollars are used.
GHA has been working with HUD officials to seek guidance on how to report the usage of these dollars, but Prince said new funding streams require new reporting methods. He’s been told HUD is working to put such a new system in place.
A federal moratorium on evictions ended July 25 and Prince said Greenwood officials have had no issues collecting rent. GHA hasn’t been assessing late fees, which would have brought in about $9,600, but the agency has been operating well without those penalties.
“An underlying tenet of the whole program, whether it’s public housing or Section 8, is that your rent is based on your income,” Prince said. “If you have lost your job or you don’t have any income, we make a rent adjustment.”
Besides this natural process to keep people from being under a rent burden when their employment is at risk, HUD has encouraged local housing authorities to enter into repayment agreements with residents who can’t pay.
At Monday’s meeting, the board voted to extend omitting late fees and not to pursue evictions for nonpayment through September. This only applies to residents who live in public housing properties owned by GHA, and doesn’t apply to Section 8, Prince said.
He said at the meeting that he didn’t think collecting late fees was necessary, and that he didn’t see where people were in a better financial position than they were previously.
“And I think if they ever pass legislation just like the CARES Act prohibiting those things — late fees and evictions — I think it will be in the next round of legislation,” he said.
According to the American Community Survey’s most recent data, more than half of Greenwood’s renters spend 30% or more of their household income on rent. Data like this, collected and presented online by the United Way of Greenwood and Abbeville County on Greenwoodcounts.org, is helping shape the United Way’s approach to tackling issues such as housing insecurity.
Marisel Losa, UGAC president and executive director, said staff is pulling together relevant data from the Greenwood Counts project and working with local nonprofits and groups to apply for funding and resources to help. In the past, housing hasn’t been a topic the local United Way tackled, but she said staff members want to roll up their sleeves and get involved.
Work is underway to better define Greenwood’s community needs and how to best use the resources available, while Losa said she’s waiting to hear back on new dollars that could aid the effort. She said numerous economic and social factors can affect housing insecurity, and that the United Way will have more news on resources and help for people as the coordinating work continues.
Meanwhile, anyone looking for rental help, how to avoid foreclosure or seeking information about other housing issues can visit hud.gov/states/south_carolina for resources from HUD.