What does housing authority do?
By Jo Lee Ferguson firstname.lastname@example.org
Dec. 7, 2011 at 10 p.m.
<strong>QUESTION:</strong> There's been a lot in the newspaper recently about the Longview Housing Authority. What does the Longview Housing Authority consist of? Are there city houses built with federal grants? What all is involved? Until this came out, I didn't even know there was a Longview Housing Authority.
<strong>ANSWER:</strong> The Longview Housing Authority does not own or operate any kind of public housing or housing for low-income families. Instead, the housing authority, which is part of the city's housing and community development division, uses funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide the Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Section 8 Rental assistance) for low-income families. (The housing authority also assists elderly and disabled people.)
I found a good description of the program on the city's website, which says the voucher program "allows low-income families to select a unit of their choice in the private rental market.
"This is important because one of the main goals of the (voucher program) is to help families become self-sufficient by integrating them into the surrounding community," the website says. "Through (the voucher program) families pay their portion of the rent and Housing pays the difference between the fair market rent and the family's rental amount. Housing subsidized by the (housing authority) must meet HUD Housing Quality Standards (HQS) for safety and sanitation as well as city code. Unit rents approved for the program must be determined to fall within the range considered to be Fair Market Rents, as determined by (the housing authority). The (voucher program) can be used in single-family housing units, apartment complexes, duplexes, etc."
Participating property owners may screen and select tenants. The housing authority posts information about available properties, but tenants are responsible for finding their own housing. (Assistance is available to elderly and handicapped people.)
Eligible families in the voucher program also might use their rental assistance toward purchasing a home through the Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program.
<strong>Q:</strong> I live in Longview and have an existing 10-foot-by-14-foot greenhouse that has rotted out. I want to replace it with a shed of the same size and location. Do I need to apply for a permit? If I do need one, who do I contact to apply for it? The shed will not have any water or electricity.
<strong>A:</strong> Yes, you need a permit, and Answer Line knows this because I asked the same question when I moved into my house six years ago and put up a shed (or, more accurately, when Answer Line's brothers put up her shed).
The city's Development Services Department can help you out with this. That office is at 410 S. High St. For questions, call (903) 237-1060.
<strong>Q:</strong> We keep hearing that more and more people are getting food stamps. Are the recipients policed as to continued eligibility or is it that once on, the stamps just keep coming?
<strong>A:</strong> Yes, they are monitored for continued eligibility, according to a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. (The commission implements the food stamp program in Texas, or what is now called "SNAP food benefits." Recipients' monthly SNAP allotment is placed on their Lone Star Card, which is used like a credit or debit card at a grocery store.)
The length of time between benefit renewals varies depending on the type of client, from three months, for instance, for a person with no children, to six months for most families who have children or up to three years for people with disabilities.
<em>- Email questions to email@example.com; leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX, 75606.</em>