Federal grants welcome news

Mar. 30, 2013 @ 05:29 PM

Housing in Henderson, as difficult as it is for many to afford, is impossible for those unable to work, making three federal grant awards totaling $579,700 announced earlier this month welcome news for housing subsidy advocates.

Joel Rice, director of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions, said the grants divide out to three programs, assisting the homeless in Vance, Warren, Granville, Halifax and Franklin counties under the direction of Five County Mental Health.

“We applied for these grants, and we were very fortunate to receive these,” Rice said.

About $100,000 is a support renewal for permanent housing assistance, the fourth grant award for that program. Almost $380,000 went to the permanent housing renewal program. Another $100,000 amount went to a program called Shelter Plus Care.

Those programs assist persons eligible because of disability and homeless problems, paying for rental expenses in a similar way that Section-8 programs do, Rice said.

Section 8 is a housing voucher from the federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to very low income families, the elderly and disabled, who individually purchase housing in the private market.

“We have a network of service providers that contract with Cardinal Innovations, and they will make referrals for their clients to receive assistance,” Rice said.

In contrast to the Section 8 programs subsidizing individual cases is the Vance County Housing Authority’s public housing program at Lincoln Heights.

Tampara Whitfield, the director at the housing authority, said her organization’s housing program is not part of Section 8, so there is no impact there from the HUD announced grants to those three regional programs.

“We are non-profit,” Whitfield said. “We get an operating subsidy, not a rental subsidy. We are the only low-income public housing program in Henderson.”

Lincoln Heights, located off of West Andrews Avenue, offers 75 rental units based on a $561 flat rate for rent modified based on the tenant’s ability to pay.

Whitfield and Rice said there is a critical need for more options for affordable housing, including subsidized housing, in Henderson.

Whitfield said with the economy’s impact on Henderson, no one is using the flat rate of $561 at Lincoln Heights, even though the rate is about a $100 bargain from the fair market rental rate in Vance County for a two-bedroom unit according to a nationally organized study.

Whitfield said everyone needs the additional subsidy because of their income needs and the waiting list at Lincoln Heights runs several years.

“We tell our residents it is one-to-three years,” she said, “but usually it does not take that long. It all depends on our turnover rate.”

Rice said city leaders should find contractors and developers willing to expand affordable housing construction, and not allow negative stereotypes to hinder bringing about the growth of subsidized housing options.

“There is an unfortunate negative feeling toward subsidized housing,” Rice said. “There is a lot of thinking that everyone coming in to Henderson should be a homeowner, and that is just not going to happen.”

Rice said he has five active grant applications in the works for approval, and he has shepherded more than $3 million in grant funding toward his work with collaborative housing subsidy efforts over nine years at Cardinal Innovations.

“Vance County does not have a lot of apartment stock for subsidized housing,” he said, “making it difficult to find unit housing.”

The $579,700 to local programs was part of a $17 million HUD announcement for continuing 126 homeless housing and service programs in North Carolina made earlier in March.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.