Federal money heading to midstate housing authorities

Macon, largest local agency, to get lion’s share

jgaines@macon.comAugust 16, 2013 

Public housing authorities in Middle Georgia are getting nearly $3.9 million from the Department of Housing and Urban development, part of an annual allocation to housing authorities nationwide.

The local recipient of the most federal money is the Macon Housing Authority, which is also the region’s largest. The Macon Housing Authority will get $2.7 million, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced this month.

June Parker, MHA executive director, said the authority plans to upgrade heaters and replace appliances in the 388-unit Tindall Heights complex.

The plan will be taken to resident councils next month, she said. Instead of spreading the annual HUD money among all MHA units, the practice is to focus each year on particular needs in a specific complex, Parker said. Tindall Heights’ townhouses were last renovated in 1987, according to the MHA website.

Overall, HUD is sending out $1.7 billion to the nation’s 3,100 public housing agencies, which oversee 1.2 million units, according to a news release from agency spokesman Joseph Phillips. Georgia received $62.7 million.

The money is distributed under HUD’s Capital Fund Program, intended for large-scale construction, repairs or modernization.

“This funding is critical for housing authorities to maintain and improve public housing conditions for their residents,” Donovan said. “However, with a significant repair backlog, I am encouraged by new, innovative, long-term solutions HUD is exploring that can be combined with this funding to not only protect and preserve this housing for the next generation, but to also build the quality infrastructure necessary for families to thrive.”

About 10,000 public housing units are lost to disrepair each year, according to HUD. A 2011 study by the agency found that public housing nationwide needs about $25.6 billion in major repairs and upgrades, including those for energy efficiency, Phillips said.

This year’s funding to the Macon Housing Authority is down $100,000 from 2012, Parker said. It’ll be enough for much of the needed work in Tindall Heights, but not all, she said.

“Over the last five years, it has gone down from $4 million to a little over $2.7 million,” Parker said. “We get less money, still having the same needs.”

The Macon Housing Authority always uses its Capital Fund Program money exclusively for the work itself, even though using a portion for administrative cost is allowed, she said.

Major construction or replacement would take far more, for which the agency is always looking for grants or partnerships, Parker said.

The housing authorities of Warner Robins and Houston County will get a total of $515,658.

They jointly operate a total of 466 units, according to the Warner Robins authority’s website.

The next-largest recipient is the Milledgeville authority, which has 320 units. Milledgeville is to get $400,340 this year, the HUD announcement said.

Fort Valley’s authority is to get $111,256, Roberta will receive $76,310, and the Byron Housing Authority $32,397, according to HUD.

Officials at those authorities weren’t reached Friday for comment.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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