Councilman Andy Morris asked the council in February 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.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees Section 8, must approve dissolving the city’s program before it can be consolidated with the housing authority. The city will notify the federal department of its intention to dissolve the program in its annual plan, which must be sent to HUD each year, later this month if approved by the City Council. The Council will vote on the plan at its meeting set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 205 Lawrence St.
The document notifies HUD of the city’s intention to dissolve the program, but does not mean the program will be immediately consolidated. HUD must approve the plan, and the city and housing authority still must approve an agreement legally consolidating the two programs, said Daphne Bradwell, director of the city’s program.
“Each housing authority has to come to an agreement, and they have to present an agreement to the board,” Bradwell said.
Under the plan, the city’s program would be dissolved Dec. 31, 2014, and would be transferred to the housing authority Jan. 1, 2015.
Council members supported the consolidation idea, with the exception of Councilman Anthony Coleman, who said he saw no benefit in merging the programs and had concerns about the fate of the nine city employees who administer the vouchers.
Ray Buday, who was executive director of the authority at the time, said two additional employees would be needed to handle the extra work and city workers could apply for those spots. Buday has since retired, and Pete Waldrep is now in charge.
Previous councils considered merging the two programs and ultimately decided against it. The city administers about 950 vouchers while the housing authority manages about 2,500.
Since 2003, 213 housing authorities have shifted their duties back to HUD or have consolidated with other housing authorities, Morris said when he presented the idea to council.
Marietta is the only city in the state that has two entities operating Section 8 housing programs.
“That speaks volumes for me,” said Mayor Steve Tumlin.
Tumlin supports the consolidation and said the city’s Section 8 clients will now have access to more programs, like those for first-time homebuyers.
“I’m a strong proponent of it,” Tumlin said. “When we just have three blocks away a duplication of services, it’s the thing to do.”
Morris said the housing authority is more qualified to handle the city’s housing vouchers.
“To me, looking at the program it looked like it’s better suited to be under their control,” Morris said. “They’re more involved in it.”