Washington Housing Authority Touts Reinvestment, 'Transformation' in Annual Report
Originally published at 4:46 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2022 by Brandon Tester
Washington Housing Authority reinvested approximately $600,000 into its properties during the fiscal year that ended in September 2021, helping facilitate what Executive Director Vanessa Dunn called the "transformation" of the agency's branding and programming.
"We set out with the task of providing our residents with not only a decent, safe, sanitary, and affordable housing, but an improvement on their overall quality life as well," Dunn wrote in WHA's 2021 annual report, which covers October 2020 - September 2021. "We were awarded the Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency Service Coordinator grant. This grant funds a position that would enable our residents to have someone coordinate services for them that would lead to opportunities for self-sufficiency. WHA's Family Self-Sufficiency program was funded another year as we continued to assist families to remove barriers they have identified to their self-sufficiency."
Dunn also mentioned WHA's inaugural 3on3on9th basketball tournament that was held in September 2021. The tournament raised money for the new Torch Scholarship for graduating high school seniors.
"Washington Initiative to Support Homeownership (WISH) was founded in a partnership with the City of Washington," Dunn wrote. "This program will assist residents in public housing and participants in the Housing Choice Voucher program to purchase their first home. Participants in this program will have the opportunity to repair their credit, receive down payment assistance, and more. This is a wonderful partnership with the City of Washington.
"This is only the beginning of what WHA has planned," Dunn added. "I am excited to introduce new housing opportunities to the families we serve."
WHA operates six public housing communities consisting of a combined 386 units. Those communities are Eastern Village, East Haven, Eastern Village Annex, Oak Crest, Old Fort and Westbrooke. WHA's occupancy rate was 98% in 2021.
Presenting the annual report to the Washington City Council on Monday, Dunn said the $600,000 the agency spent on upgrading its facilities helped support local businesses and contractors. The largest chunk of that money, $406,985, went toward an HVAC project at Oak Crest. Other significant projects included $82,996 for windows at Clifton Meadows, an affordable housing community operated by Washington Housing Nonprofit Inc.; $35,374 for resurfacing basketball courts; $20,720 for windows at Eastern Village; and $15,000 for Old Fort office renovations.
Approximately 10% of Washington's population resides in public housing, and Dunn said that number climbs to around 17% with the Section 8 program also in consideration Of those 858 public housing occupants, 46% reported their primary source of income was Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income.
"...Meaning that almost 50% of our clientele are elderly or disabled members of the community," Dunn told City Council. "And I think that flies into the face of some of the stereotypes that you may have heard about those who receive public assistance."
According to the annual report, the average head of household age in Washington public housing is 50, the average household size is two, the average annual gross income is $11,765, and the average number of years as a resident is 9.65. Those numbers are similar for Housing Choice Voucher program participants. At Clifton meadows the average head of household age is 45, the average annual gross income is $12,498 with an average household size of two, and residents typically reside there for approximately six years.
Residents are responsible for their own utilities in all communities except for East Haven.
Sixty-three families were admitted to the public housing program between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. Twenty-one of those families were homeless at the time of admission.
WHA said it helped families complete North Carolina Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions Program applications during the program. Eighty-five public housing families participated in the program, securing $76, 129 in assistance, while 11 Clifton Meadows families received a combined $10,866 in assistance.
"WHA ensured this safety net was known to our families as we strive to keep those impacted by COVID-19 in decent, safe, and affordable housing," the annual report reads.