Housing Authority Plan Adopted

Monday, 16 Apr 2012, 2:22:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

A minimum monthly rent payment of $50 and a more streamlined process to verify medical expenses are among the modifications for the Santa Monica Housing Authority’s (SMHA) Annual Plan for the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year, which is set to be submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development after a skeleton City Council approved the agenda item in the wee hours of its latest meeting.

The final agendized item of the April 10 meeting that lasted more than six hours and ended on April 11 was quickly presented and discussed as two council members – Bobby Shriver and Mayor Richard Bloom – excused themselves before the Annual Plan was introduced to the dais just past midnight.

With the four remaining council members approving the Annual Plan in their capacity as Housing Authority Board, the agenda item completes an action item that had previously come to the council and board twice before in November 2011 and again in February.

Only one speaker commented during the public hearing, discussing with board members the significance of paying heed to the Homestead Act and protecting the rights of the disabled when drafting and adopting Annual Plans similar to the one passed on Wednesday morning.

The approved Annual Plan also includes the Administrative Plan, which is “a supporting document to the Annual Plan … (and) describes the discretionary policies and operations.”

Four discretionary changes to both plans were highlighted by staff.

The first discretionary change was the establishment of a Master List that gives tiered preference to up to five “Shelter Plus Care” participants who are able to live independently to transfer to the Section 8 program should vouchers become available.

“The proposed changes would allow the Housing Authority to provide new (Shelter Plus Care) vouchers to homeless individuals in need of services and housing,” the staff report to council members stated.

Another discretionary change: SMHA participants must now complete a medical claim form prior to their file being reexamined, thus helping the Housing Authority to “streamline procedures to verify medical expenses and calculate income,” the staff report read.

All Section 8 participants would be required to pay at least $50 per month in rent under the adopted Annual and Administrative Plans.

“The proposed change would ensure that every household makes some contribution toward rent, even if it is very small,” the staff report proclaimed.

A standard procedure for providing studio-unit vouchers to single-person households with live-in aids was established. According to City Hall, the proposed change “would stretch limited funding to provide more vouchers and accommodate voucher-holders with special needs.”

Among other modifications included: a clarification of policy regarding the addition of a new family member to one’s voucher; decrease the number of days a guest can remain in an assisted unit from 30 to 28; and, requiring a head of household who places a child in foster care to provide written notification and a third party verification.

City Hall stated that the SMHA “currently administers approximately 1,200 federally funded rental vouchers to very-low and low-income households under a contract with … HUD.”

Though submitted together, the Annual and Administrative Plans have distinct differences. According to staff, the Annual Plan “describes the Housing Authority’s mission, goals, and objectives, changes to eligibility, selection and admissions policies, and waitlist procedures that govern the administration of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher … and other programs administered by the Housing Authority.”

Conversely, the Administrative Plan “describes how the SMHA will implement the activities described in the Annual Plan (and) serves as a policy manual for staff to utilize in their daily work to help ensure consistency.”

“It also provides the standard by which applicants and participants and the broader community can determine equity and transparency … (and) notifies HUD of the policies the SMHA has adopted to conform to regulations,” the staff report continued.

Both plans must be submitted to the HUD for approval by April 17.

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