Housing Authority faces cuts in federal funding

The Housing Authority of Columbus will only receive 77 percent of its annual funding this year due to the federal sequester that went into effect March 1.

The amount is the lowest percentage the housing authority has ever received in its 75-year history, according to Len Williams, the agency’s chief executive officer.

Williams made the announcement Wednesday at the housing authority’s monthly board meeting. He said the agency also faced cuts to its operating reserve last year, but won an appeal to have $392,000 returned.

The cuts could be harmful in the long run, Williams said, but for now the agency is in good financial condition.

“We do have a healthy reserve right now,” he said. “So, it should not affect our operations at least through the next fiscal year.”

Lisa Walters, the agency’s chief financial officer, said after the meeting that the reduction is about $1.3 million. She said the housing authority would receive $5.7 million if it was funded 100 percent, but will only be receiving about $4.4 million. By June, the agency will have about $3.8 million in reserve, Walters said.

“That’s six months of operations,” she said. “So if they stopped giving us subsidy July 1, we could operate for six months on the reserves.”

Williams said a Continuing Resolution proposed by the U.S. Senate would make the cuts less severe, allowing the agency to receive about 83 percent of its funding.In the meanwhile, the agency is moving forward with plans for redevelopment and renovations.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved an annual plan that includes plans for the redevelopment of the Booker T. Washington apartment complex. If implemented, the project would replace the old brick apartments with mixed-income housing and commercial development at the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Victory Drive. Another set of apartments would be built around the Liberty Theater. Plans are contingent on the agency receiving approval for tax credit financing from the federal government.

Williams said a residents’ meeting will be held 5 p.m. Monday at BTW to discuss the plans. And the city will hold meetings about plans for Liberty City 4 p.m. March 27, 29 and April 15 at the Mildred Terry Library, 640 Veterans Parkway.

The annual plan also includes completion of Arbor Pointe, which involves relocating senior residents at A.H. Chapman Homes to 120 newly developed units at the location where Baker Village once stood.

Williams said the agency will also move forward with facade renovations at Farley Homes, Rivers Homes and E.J. Knight Apartments. Funding for the Farley project will come out of the agency’s Capital Fund Finance Program (CFFP), Williams said. Bids for the Rivers and E.J. Knight projects are just starting, which will give the agency time to determine whether it will have to dip into reserves.

Williams said federal cuts will not stop the projects — at least for now.

“It’s not something the board or employees should worry about,” he said. “We think we’re well positioned for it.”