Rising unpaid rent hits CHA

Rising unpaid rent hits CHA

July 3rd, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Evictions for Nonpayment

Year-Number Evicted

2008-175

2009-86

2010 -117

2011 (through 06/29)-56


CHA Loss

2008 -$98,029

2009 -$125,486

2010 -$144,999

Source: CHA

The Chattanooga Housing Authority evicted 378 people for unpaid rent and lost more than $368,000 in unpaid rental fees from 2008 to 2010.

Last year's loss was almost 50 percent greater than the write-off in 2008. That's when then-CHA executive director Bob Dull predicted that the problem was only going to get worse because of the economy.

"I'm sure it's the economy," said Eddie Holmes, CHA's board chairman. "You have less people working. People have less money to provide for their livelihood."

Minimum rent for public housing residents with no income is $50 a month, and no resident can be charged more than a third of his or her income for rent, said Holmes.

"I don't think they can go any place to find rent cheaper," he said.

Even so, 56 people have been evicted for unpaid rent so far this year. There were 117 evictions in all of 2010.

About 400 public housing residents, just over 10 percent of the estimated 3,000 public housing residents, paid minimum rent in 2008, records show. In that year CHA wrote off $98,029 in unpaid fees. The amount of unpaid rent increased to $144,999 in 2010.

The loss of rent means the housing authority has less money for operating expenses, officials said.

"HUD reduces the amount of subsidy that we receive dollar for dollar by the rental income that is charged," said Philippe Lindsay, CHA's chief financial officer. "Bad debt expense reduces the amount of funds available to address critical needs at our developments."

All residents are given opportunity to sign a repayment agreement if they can't pay their rent, Lindsay said.

"As long as the terms of that repayment agreement are met the eviction process does not begin even though the tenant is technically late," he said.

Residents may also qualify for a hardship rent exemption if the family income has decreased because the head of the household lost a job or died.

And if tenants notify a community service representative when they expect to have difficulty, the representative will try to find a social service agency or church that may help them, CHA officials said earlier.

Melissa Pinion, 32, lived in Emma Wheeler Homes public housing site for one year before falling a month behind on her rent this month.

"I've got six kids," she said when asked how she got behind.

Until last month she paid her rent with the help of friends and family. She said she's been trying to find a job and has applied at several fast-food restaurants and retail stores at Hamilton Place mall, but still hasn't found work.

"I'll do anything," she said. "Wash dishes, mop floors, any job."