Metro HRA considers minimum rent requirement, biennial inspections, measures related to homelessness

Posted In: Housing
Date: 8/19/2019

The Metropolitan Housing and Redevelopment Authority is proposing a minimum rent for voucher holders, a move to biennial inspections for qualifying properties, and creating some opportunities to help families move from supportive housing to independent living.

Metro HRA is in the process of updating its long-term (5-year) and annual public housing agency plans. Among the elements of the plans are mandatory responses to requirements from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and several policy areas where the Council, as a public housing authority, has discretion.

The 5-year plan identifies key goals that the agency will be working to achieve during the next several years:

  • Maintain or increase availability of affordable housing

  • Increase housing choice for all residents

  • Encourage movement, if residents choose, to areas in the region with lower concentrations of poverty (less than 20%)

  • Administer programs that encourage integrated settings for people with disabilities

  • Contribute to the goal of ending long-term homelessness

  • Promote self-sufficiency and stabilize families

Plan would help address long-term homelessness

Among the policy proposals is a plan to set aside 40 vouchers that turn over during a year and provide them to people in supportive housing who were homeless prior to entry into the supportive housing program, but who no longer require intensive supportive services. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are considering a similar program.

The plan would help address issues with long-term homelessness in the region.

“We have about 600 vouchers turn over every year,” said Terri Smith, director of the Metro HRA. “As occupants of permanent supportive housing units move out with a “Move-Up” voucher, that opens a supportive housing unit for a person experiencing homelessness.”

Minimum rent is common practice among housing agencies

Another proposed policy would be to establish a minimum rent of $50 a month for voucher holders. The Metro HRA is operating at a deficit of approximately $1.9 million annually, and staff have been directed to explore ways to cut costs or raise revenue. The policy change would save an additional $162,000 a year and affect 270 families, or 4% of voucher holders.

Average rents for the HRA are $1,000 monthly. Staff are recommending this approach as a partial solution to the funding shortages.

Most of the 10 housing agencies in the region, including Minneapolis and Saint Paul, charge a minimum rent. Nationally, 79% of housing agencies charge a minimum rent. Families would have the option of demonstrating a hardship to be granted an exemption from minimum rent requirements.

Shift to biennial inspections for qualifying property owners

Staff are also recommending moving to a biennial inspection schedule, rather than an annual one. Staff piloted biennial inspections on certain properties for the past four years to assess impact. Fully implementing the program would reduce more than 3,000 inspections of the 12,000 the Metro HRA performs annually, resulting in significant administrative cost savings.

HRA staff are examining the best way to implement the program. It could be an incentive for landlords that if they meet certain expectations, they can go to biennial inspections. Residents are also generally supportive of the move, because they need to be home during an inspection, and for some residents who work during the weekday, that creates a hardship.

Safe, stable housing for residents is top priority

“We want to assure that our residents are living in safe, stable housing,” said Smith. “We’d be pairing whatever criteria we establish with owner and tenant education to encourage better coordination and communication to avoid complaints and significant safety issues. Stable families make great tenants and serve as the eyes and ears for landlords.”

Metro HRA has conducted outreach on the proposed policy changes with residents and voucher holders throughout the region, as well as landlords. Many residents and landlords have expressed support for the changes.

The Council will accept public comment on the public housing authority plans through Aug. 29.

Posted In: Housing

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