Councilman Andy Morris asked the council Wednesday to consider consolidating the Section 8 federal housing vouchers the city administers with those managed by the Marietta Housing Authority, which provides housing assistance in Cobb and whose board is appointed by Mayor Steve Tumlin.
Morris said consolidating the programs would increase efficiency, reduce administrative costs and give clients access to more programs designed to encourage homeownership.
Since 2003, 213 housing authorities have shifted their duties back to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the Section 8 program, or have consolidated with other housing authorities, Morris said.
Marietta is the only city in the state that has two entities operating Section 8 housing programs.
The city administers about 950 vouchers while the Housing Authority manages about 2,500.
Councilman Anthony Coleman says he sees no benefit in merging the programs and plans to ask the council at its March 12 meeting to postpone taking any action.
“It sounds like to me somebody’s got an agenda,” Coleman said at Wednesday night’s meeting.
Coleman said Morris was once employed as a contractor by the Housing Authority.
“I know Councilman Morris worked for the MHA in the past and has a very favorable opinion of them,” Coleman said. “I, too, think the MHA has done a good
job, yet I serve as a councilman for the city of Marietta and represent its citizens and employees.”
Morris did not return phone calls on Thursday seeking comment.
Marietta has operated its own federal subsidy program since the 1960s, he said, and “runs a great shop.”
“I’m not in support of us giving up our Section 8 program and giving our money to the Housing Authority,” Coleman said.
He said the city’s nine case workers would be without a job if the program was handed over to the Housing Authority.
Ray Buday, executive director of the authority, said two additional employees would be needed to handle the extra work and city workers could apply for those spots.
“Absolutely the people that work there can certainly apply and seek either or both of the positions that we’ll probably need for this, but we’re not making any guarantees at this point because we just haven’t gone through this process,” Buday said.
He doesn’t see a downside to consolidating and said clients would not notice a difference in service.
Though the previous council decided against merging the program, Tumlin said the current body isn’t bound by that decision and he supports consolidation.