Number of vouchers will now be reduced
BENTON - The Sikeston Public Housing Authority and Scott County Commission agreed to a plan to formally merge their Section 8 voucher programs into one entity with an eye toward reducing the number of vouchers available in Sikeston and Scott County by 25 percent over the next few months.
The Sikeston Housing Authority board passed a resolution during its regular monthly meeting Monday accepting a merger plan approved by the County Commission during their Feb. 4 meeting. The two groups have been discussing the agreement for more than a year.
"Sikeston Public Housing has handled administration of the Scott County Housing Agency's Section 8 vouchers for more than 25 years," said Bobby K. Henry, executive director of the Sikeston Housing Authority. "So we're not taking on a significant new management load. In fact, we are going to be able to drop a lot of duplication in the reports we have to file, separate audits, and the expense of maintaining separate operations."
There are 263 vouchers in the Scott County program, and currently both agencies are allocated a total of 551 housing choice vouchers with 464 of them being exercised in Sikeston and the remainder in Miner, Scott City and scattered sites around the county.
The vouchers subsidize housing rental expense for low-income individuals and families and can be used anywhere in the county where landlords will accept them.
Under the plan developed by Sikeston and Scott County as part of the merger, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department will be asked to approve a reduction in the number of vouchers to 413. The reduction would occur through normal attrition by not reusing vouchers surrendered through cancellation or termination.
Presently only 485 of the 551 vouchers are being used with an average of 16 terminations and cancellations per month.
"We've had a hard time over the past several months using the full allocation of vouchers available," Henry said. "For a variety of reasons, the demand for them is not nearly as strong as it used to be; thus we think a reduction in the number of vouchers available in this area is in order."
HUD regulations require that housing agencies maintain at least 90 percent usage of their voucher allocations or it assesses financial penalties on the agency. The Scott County voucher program fell below 90 percent last year and Sikeston's program faces that prospect this year as well. By merging the two agencies and seeking a voucher reduction, the program will remain viable and acceptable to HUD, officials said.
The merger has no impact on the operation of public housing facilities in Sikeston or similar public housing programs in the area.
Liquidation of the Scott County Housing Agency's assets, primarily unrestricted reserve funds, will provide resources for addressing other housing and planning needs in the county.
"Scott County continues to promote and encourage better housing and economic conditions for the county's low-income families," said Scott County Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel. "We really appreciate the good management Sikeston Public Housing Authority has provided to our Section 8 program over these many years. Now its time to react to local conditions realistically and bring this program in line with local needs and wants."
The next step is to "see how we can move housing forward in the county with the funds that have been released by the merger," according to Scott County Economic Developer Jim Schwaninger.