Henderson resident Jancey D. Quinitchette read a letter she composed to the city council during the public comment portion of Monday’s council meeting.
In the letter, she told the council that “the time has come to stop looking the other way when it comes to substandard Section 8 rental units in the city of Henderson”.
Quinitchette informed the council that landlords with a housing assistance payment contract with HUD must maintain their rental units at or above HUD housing quality standards at all times. She asked rhetorically if those who do not are willfully defrauding the federal government.
Quinitchette asked council members who would have the political will to ask the hard questions, such as:
“What are the code compliance officers doing?”
“How and why is substandard housing being inspected and qualified as suitable Section 8 rental units in this town?”
“Who is accountable? Where is the oversight?”
Quinitchette asked if the Public Housing Agency and property owners are too intimately intertwined. She suggested that a complete audit of the city’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program be undertaken as well as a thorough inspection of the public housing stock in the city of Henderson.
After Quinitchette read her statement to the council, Henderson Mayor Clem Seifert confirmed that the public housing authority that Quinitchette referred to in her statement included Vance, Franklin, and Warren counties.
Quinitchette then passed around pictures to the council and to media representatives alleged to represent substandard conditions within her rented dwelling. While council members looked at the pictures, she told them that she and others are afraid to come out and complain about conditions in Section 8 housing for fear of becoming homeless through eviction. She later alleged to the council that those who complain are not able to find rental housing because of having made the complaint.
Black mold at rear of house.
Kitchen drain at exterior of house.
“Let’s police ourselves, please,” she asked council members.
She informed the council that she was in the process of being evicted, claiming the eviction was due to the cessation of Section 8 payments to the landlord.
“I don’t understand whose responsibility it is to follow up on these issues,” Henderson mayor Clem Seifert remarked to City Attorney John Zollicoffer. He told Zollicoffer and the council that someone needed to educate him on the city’s responsibility regarding building inspection and building code.
Council member Mary Emma Evans asked if the city has a department that is supposed to look into such complaints. Council member Garry Daeke responded that his committee, Community Development, was currently considering a proposal to look at complaints of the nature that Quinitchette presented. He later expressed a hope that a position would be allocated in the next budget to conduct such inspections.
When Interim City Manager Jerry Moss pointed out that Section 8 has its own inspectors, Quinitchette responded that the inspectors “sign off on them”. She later produced a copy of the inspection report on her rented home which indicated that it had met Section 8 standards.
Although the council debated the issue at length, there was no determination as to whose responsibility it was to inspect for and enforce minimum housing standards.
Evans expressed the hope that the house would be inspected before it was re-rented.
When Seifert asked Zollicoffer what the city’s authority was to inspect the house based on the allegations made by Quinitchette, Zollicoffer responded by saying that the city has authority based on the state minimum housing standards. He also stated that there is a need to do the inspection between tenants or someone ends up getting evicted.
Seifert stated a need to set up a council work session to deal with the issue.