HUD to offer vouchers for housing
Residents of the Elmwood and McBride public housing complexes in Cairo are being forced to move because the deteriorating buildings they lived in were deemed unlivable and beyond repair.
The Cairo Citizen newspaper reported that U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, officials said they intend to provide residents with transportable vouchers, to fund their moving expenses and to provide each with relocation expenses.
The vouchers, known as Tenant Protection Vouchers, are a unique form of rental assistance for households forced to relocate from their homes.
Residents can take the vouchers anywhere in the nation where a voucher program is being operated by a housing authority.
According to a HUD Q&A, 83 families in Elmwood and 103 families in McBride will be moved.
Union County Housing Authority executive director Kelly Carter said they can accept residents from Cairo.
According to Carter, out of 394 aparements, they have about a 3 percent vacancy rate.
He said inquiries from residents of Cairo have been made, but it’s not been overwhelming.
“We are here to house people who need it,” Carter said. “We have openings and we are always searching for occupants.”
Johnson County Housing Authority executive director Sara O’Neal said they have virtually no vacancies, with only two apartments available, and one of them is only available to elderly or disabled persons.
She said they hadn’t received any inquiries from Cairo residents.
O’Neal also said if a Cairo resident inquired about moving into Johnson County housing, the process would be no different from anyone else.
Johnson County housing has 143 apartments.
According to Pulaski County Housing Authority’s executive director Joann Pink, they cannot accept any Cairo resident under the voucher, though they can accept them as a regular resident.
However, Pulaski County currently has no vacancies.
Pink has received several inquiries from Cairo residents and even began housing about three or four Cairo families before the demolition announcement in April.
State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, noted that he spent several days in Cairo as a result of the April 10 announcement by HUD that the department would be requiring residents to move from the Elmwood and McBride complexes.
During Fowler’s repeated visits, he met with constituents and local leaders concerning the quick time frame for vacating the premises, set forth by the federal government.
The senator is part of a local working group looking at housing options for a portion of the affected constituents.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, issued the following statement following the meeting with officials from HUD:
“I think it is a disgrace that officials from HUD do not have a plan to provide an adequate housing situation for these families, at a time when so many families throughout Southern Illinois are struggling. While there are obvious problems and maintenance issues in the housing, evicting these families instead of improving their housing is wrong.
“Closing down the Alexander County Housing Authority’s developments is not only devastating to the families affected, but to the Cairo community as a whole.
“This is another example of Southern Illinois being overlooked and getting the short end of the stick. The closure of these housing developments will lead to many families choosing to leave Southern Illinois, or Illinois altogether. This move by the HUD is only going to further increase the demand for affordable housing in Cairo.
“I’m focused on creating opportunities for families throughout Southern Illinois, and enacting economic reforms that lift up the middle class, but it’s disappointing to see that HUD is working against our communities.
“The people being impacted by this closure have families and livelihoods. Rather than working to fix the problem, the decision by HUD is just going to shrug off the responsibility. I remain committed to doing my part and working with federal officials to help bring affordable and quality housing that the people of Cairo deserve.”
According to The Cairo Citizen, HUD intends to begin the process of moving people out this month.