Regional Housing Authority's Five-Year Plan Includes Big Changes - - The News for South Mississippi

Regional Housing Authority's Five-Year Plan Includes Big Changes

The Mississippi Regional Housing Authority held a public comment hearing Monday on its five year plan for South Mississippi. That plan includes some big changes. However, questions and worrying began when residents first heard of some of the changes several months ago.

Dozens of public housing residents came looking for answers to where they might live when the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority makes a major change in how it operates under its annual five year plan.

"It's very easy to say no one will be displaced, but everything in here says disposition, so something is happening," said Gulfport Councilwoman Ella-Holmes Hines.

Jessie Billups says the biggest change is putting public housing units on the "open market" as affordable housing. He says current residents will be able to stay, using a voucher system to help pay the rent.

"Anytime we do a disposition or property or forming public housing property we have the option to apply for replacement housing choice vouchers for those particular units. In this case, residents who are in those particular developments we are talking about have the option to either take those vouchers to go elsewhere if they choose to or to remain in place," Billups said.

But with such limited housing choices after Katrina, Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines wanted to know how much it would cost people to remain where they live.

"The question I ask is what is the market for rent today," Holmes-Hines said. "They didn't have those numbers, but if you're going to state in this plan that you use 30-percent of the market before this plan goes in, you better know what 30-percent of the market is."

Housing Authority leaders assured the crowd that no one would be displaced.

Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines wasn't satisfied with the answers, and says she plans to keep looking for them.

"I would hope that the Justice Department will take a look at this plan. I will be requesting that they do," Holmes-Hines said.

Billups says the federal government is requiring that all public housing must be self-sustaining by 2008, and that's why the public housing complexes are being transformed into affordable housing.

A number of people at the meeting said they had not been given adequate notification about the meeting or good accessibility to the Five Year Plan.

Billups says the plan can be reviewed during business hours at the Authority's office on Three Rivers Road in Gulfport. The Mississippi Regional Housing Authority is planning on having a final draft of the plan by the end of the month.

By Toni Miles

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