GREDF discusses Section 8 housing codes

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mississippi County Economic Developer Clif Chitwood, spoke to the Great River Economic Development Foundation Thursday morning about the need to make sure that federal Section 8 housing in Mississippi County is up to living standards as well as to building code.

According to Chitwood many of the county’s Section 8 homes are not properly up to code. While this issue falls under the Public Facilities Board’s oversight, Chitwood wanted to discuss this issue with the GREDF to hear their thoughts.

“We’ve had several productive meetings and Mississippi County has approximately 430 Section 8 vouchers out and there has been some general public questions about the validity and quality about some of the housing stock contained in Section 8,” Chitwood said.

Chitwood stated that almost all of the section 8 housing in the county is in either Blytheville or Osceola.

The Public Facilities Board has asked the HUD [Housing and Urban Development] director to inform either Mayor Dickie Kennemore or Blytheville Building Inspector Rick Ash whenever the Section 8 contracts are 90-days from renewal. Therefore the cities will be able to “red line” units that do not meet city codes and they will be immediately removed from the Section 8 program.

Ash later told the CN that HUD and the city of Blytheville are not looking at the same guidelines for quality. On the federal level, for a unit to qualify for Section 8, it must be properly built and have nothing wrong with it that could cause immediate danger to a tenant. The city is also looking at factors like insulation so that when tenants pay utilities they aren’t paying a few hundred dollars each month.

“We’re trying to help people have a decent living and make sure that it is safe for them. Even if you are getting rent assistance, if you get a $400 electric bill, well I’ll just tell you, at my house that would be tough because I’ve made sure that I have an insulated roof and I’ve put in more energy efficient windows,” Ash said.

“I think that this is a positive move. It may be somewhat controversial but its not right that landlords that are housing people in sub-standard homes be receiving $500 or $600 a month for housing that is unsafe, poorly insulated or just does not meet some other housing code,” Chitwood said. “HUD has essentially no housing codes. If it has a roof and a door and a window it’s a house. If its insolation amounts to three 1927 Commercial Appeals between the plywood walls, they (HUD) can’t do anything about it but you (Mayor James Sanders) and Mayor Kennemore can.”

Chitwood said that the board is not trying to make anyone homeless, but that the cities need to make owners of the houses understand that if they want to be on HUD they need to supply a better product. He explained that people in the lower income brackets spend the highest percentage of their income in the county when compared to higher income bracket residents.

Chitwood stated that cities are taking these actions because, while HUD does not require these standards, they do require that all Section 8 housing meet the standards of the city they are in.