Section 8 Director Sharon Sneed speaks to Beacon Light residents during yesterday’s relocation meeting.
Several local and federal agencies were represented yesterday at the resident relocation meeting held at City Hall.
Two HUD offices were represented at the meeting, one in Greensboro, North Carolina and one in Atlanta, Georgia. Lord & Dominion Investment Management Services, a HUD contractor, was also present for the informational session.
Locally, Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunites was present, as it has been throughout the recent Beacon Light saga, as well Vance County’s Division of Social Services.
Although City Manager Jerry Moss has been instrumental in bringing the parties together to resolve the Beacon Light crisis, the city has no official role in the process.
After Moss’ introductory remarks, Ellen Dickason, a Supervisory Asset Manager for the HUD Multifamily Housing Center in Greensboro began by telling Beacon Light residents that HUD was there to facilitate easy relocation and to back up Lord & Dominion. She told residents that HUD was trying to get security, and that the security would be present until the last resident was out.
Security will most likely consist of local off-duty law-enforcement.
Sariph Bell, a Benefit Liason for Lord & Dominion, informed Beacon Light residents that HUD will pay relocation expenses. In addition to $100 for travel expenses, residents may opt to receive $900 if moving from a one-bedroom apartment, $1,100 if moving from a two-bedroom, $1,300 if moving from a three-bedroom, and $1,500 if moving from a four-bedroom. This money would be paid directly to the resident only if the resident decides to move himself or herself.
Otherwise, HUD will pay directly for security deposits, utility deposits and/or transfer fees, and moving expenses. Residents will also receive a $200 check from HUD for miscellaneous expenses such as application fees and credit checks.
Bell stressed that HUD would not pay directly for past due utility bills.
These benefits, Bell explained, will be available after residents complete an initial interview with Lord & Dominion.
Residents are not limited to Henderson. In fact, residents are free to move anywhere in the United States, officials remarked.
Bell told residents that they could not stop paying their rent, and that any damages and other problems at Beacon Light would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
The Lord & Dominion representative informed residents that interviews are confidential to assure residents with criminal histories or poor credit.
Bell indicated the possibility that residents might be consolidated into one building as the apartment complex emptied out. He stated, however, that such an interim move should not be necessary.
Sariph Bell of Lord & Dominion Investment Management Services, a HUD contractor, addresses Beacon Light residents.
Sharon Sneed of Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunity was next to address residents. She stated that everyone should have been issued a voucher.
Near the end of the meeting, it was revealed that one resident had not been issued a voucher. The resident may have become ineligible for Section 8 housing at some point in the past year; however, as Beacon Light Property Manager Judy Blue later revealed, there were no funds to conduct evictions. No resident has been compelled to leave in over a year.
Sneed then informed the audience that the next step was to locate a suitable unit to rent. She cautioned residents not to move in before the unit had been inspected.
“Don’t jump into things you’re not satisfied with,” she advised Beacon Light residents.
A question was asked about the availability of stoves and refrigerators. Although the Beacon Light apartment complex provided these appliances with each apartment, the practice is not common in Henderson. However, as noted in Beacon light transitions through inspections last week, property owner Hariette Butler provided stoves and refrigerators to tenants moving from Beacon Light.
A house or apartment cannot pass a Section 8 inspection without these appliances present and in good working order.
It was revealed that residents may use part of their relocation expenses to purchase stoves and refrigerators. In order for the purchase to be made, residents would need to sign waivers for the purchase, and the checks would be written to the provider, in this case the retailer, of the appliances.
The allowance can also be used to pay past due bills, which HUD would not otherwise pay.
Sneed advised the audience to catch up on past due bills with expense money.
In reply to a question about movers, Bill Owen of Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunity indicated that there would be list of local movers that residents could use. He stressed that if residents used their own movers, they would not get any money.
Henderson City Council member Elissa Yount asked if Beacon Light residents would get their deposits back. Blue responded that all residents would be refunded deposits, provided that a forwarding address was given and there were no damages, back rent, or fees owed.
Blue admonished residents to inform her when they are moving out so that the apartment may be inspected. She reminded them that such notification is part of the lease.
Several units have been damaged by vandalism. Without an inspection immediately upon move-out, tenants could theoretically be held liable for damage they did not cause.
For problems specific to Beacon Light itself, residents were advised to go through Blue in writing, who would in turn contact the owner since, according to HUD, there was no longer a management company. HUD representatives gave the owner of the complex as “Beacon Light-Goodwill Baxter”. HUD representatives stated that if there is no reply that residents should contact HUD in turn.
A member of the Beacon Light Lodge was present. He identified himself as “a former owner”.
The management and ownership status remains unclear. Although HUD intends to foreclose on the property, that foreclosure is not yet complete. The owner of record is the Beacon Light Masonic Lodge. As of May of 2005, it was managed by McClain Barr & Associates. According to HUD, however, neither the lodge nor the management company are involved with Beacon Light at this time.
Anthony Butler, who recently challenged State Representative Michael Wray for the 27th House District Seat in this spring’s Democratic primary, asked HUD officials if the relocation effort was based on the Relocation Act of 1972.
Dickason replied that the relocated was based on standards created by HUD.
Butler rejoined that using the act would be beneficial, since Beacon Light was created with HUD money.
Although HUD officials seemed familiar with the Relocation Act of 1972, Home in Henderson was unable to find a reference to such a federal law. A telephone interview with Anthony Butler this morning clarified that he was, in fact, referring to the Uniform Relocation Act of 1970 which, according to Butler, went into effect in 1972.
In the telephone interview, Butler informed Home in Henderson that a telephone conversaton with HUD revealed to him that a portion of the act was being used. However, since the property is not owned by HUD, the act may not be used in its entirety.
An overview of the act may be read here.
Later, when Butler continued to press HUD officials on the Relocation Act, Dickason informed him that a change in HUD’s procedure would require going through “headquarters” and Congress.
Butler claimed that the act works “all the time” in Charlotte.
“Educate yourselves and see what I’m saying,” he advised the officials.
He asked the HUD representatives and the audience at large if the Relocation Act provided a better package.
Moss settled the dissention by asking residents if they wanted to “get out of those apartments this year”.
The city manager wound the meeting down by advising residents to make certain that they paid their gas deposits so they would have heat in the winter.
“Pay your water bill first before you pay [Progress Energy],” Moss said, lightening the mood of the meeting in the last few minutes.
Moss also advised residents to contact utilities when payment problems arise and “work something out” before the situation “gets out of hand”.