Residents question affects of Section 8
Residents of the Westside had the chance to question Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority’s (CMHA) vice president at the Nov. 9 meeting of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission.
Several residents have voiced frustration about the large proportion of subsidiary housing located within the Hilltop and the affects those homes are having on local homeowners.
CMHA Vice President Thomas Dobies spearheaded his presentation by admitting he does not usually have the chance reach out, but was eager to speak with residents to help better inform the community on how the Housing Voucher Program works.
“Believe it or not, Section 8 has been around for 35 years,” Dobies said, “probably one of the country’s most extensive programs, providing affordable housing to a wide variety of citizens.”
According to Dobies, nearly 4,000 housing authorities exist in the United States, 76 of those are based out of Ohio. More than 2.2 million housing vouchers are currently being used throughout the nation, and 12,200 of those have been designated to tenants within Franklin County.
Dobies added that the CMHA offers various types of vouchers to those eligible – to be eligible you must be a citizen, pass a criminal background check and demonstrate a limited income.
On top of providing housing assistance through the vouchers, he said they also have a home ownership program, and provide assistance to veterans, disabled and the homeless through community shelters.
Commissioners and residents agreed that helping low-income families is not what concerns them.
“I’m not saying that these are the individuals that bring crime in,” Commissioner Geoffrey Phillips said, noting that he speaks as someone who, once out of college, lived in a subsidized neighborhood, “The people that bring crime are the people that hang with them.”
Phillips said his own research found that out of around 300 of the housing vouchers handed out on the Westside this year, 42 percent of those vouchers reside within a small triangle between Broad and Sullivant, and Hague and Highland.
When comparing crime reports, year-by-year, he found that drug offenses and assaults rose 700 percent from the previous year just within the boundaries of that same triangle.
“The big thing we tell landlords is, ‘You screen your tenants. If they’re a bust, that’s because of you’,” said Dobies. “What we’ve done is we’ve screened them for income, we’ve screened them for basic criminal behavior, we have not screened them for tenancy issues.”
According to Dobies, the CMHA cannot address criminal behavior directly because that is the job of the police and should be reported to them.
However, he informed the audience that tenant’s can and will be evicted by the landlord for not following strict guidelines, such as not letting animals run at large, committing fraud, moving other people in, or exhibiting rowdy behavior whether it is from the tenant or their company.
In fact, in 2009 there were 1,300 tenants removed from the voucher program; only about 50 of those were because they raised their income level. The rest were evicted by landlords for breaking contractual guidelines.
Phillips believes, along with other residents, that one of the problems comes from absentee landlords who are not properly monitoring what is happening within their units.
Dobies acknowledged the commissioners’ and residents’ comments and said he would be open to continue to work with neighborhoods to figure out solutions to their concerns.
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