Housing Authority Laments End of SHERA Program, Record Demand
The Board of the Franklin Housing Authority met at the Central Park Terrace Community Center Monday afternoon at 4:30 pm to review a regular slate of mostly financial matters with Director Lisa Audette.
This included a discussion of accounts payable totaling $138, 442. Chair George Danello asked about a specific payment made to First American Insurance, and Audette explained that it is the premium for Directors and Officers insurance.
She updated the Board on upcoming state Commissioner Training opportunities and reminded them that the annual state-wide meeting is coming up on May 21-23.
Audette reported that the current housing waitlist has reached 10,134 though there are currently two unfilled spaces in the Authority’s congregate housing.
The Chair also asked about turnover and new tenants brought into the property. Audette said they have been unusually busy, bringing in about 16 new tenants since February – not much below the “normal” average of about 20 new tenants per year.
Much of this is driven by Common Housing Application for Massachusetts Public Housing (CHAMP), Audette said. A challenge for the Authority is that individuals often file applications and advocates or other housing authorities may also do so, making for more paper work and research to make sure individuals are in fact eligible. Audette said it used to take about one day per week to process applications but now it is nearly four days. “We really need another person just to do this work but I don’t think the state will support that,” she said.
A procedural question also came up regarding how much money the authority should hold as a reserve. Board member Chris Feeley made a motion to set the figure at $75,000 with the understanding that the figure can be changed at a later date.
Audette also reported that several applications have been received for a tenant representative on the board. Those have been submitted to Town Administrator Jamie Hellen and the selection will be made by Hellen and the Town Council.
Audette said that the land encroachment by a neighbor has been investigated and the town as sent a letter spelling out the consequences if the violation persists. “The neighbor has agreed to address the problem,” Audette said.
On a negative note, Audette told the Board that the SHERA program has come to an end. According to a state website, The SHERA (Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance) program is funded through the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, overseen by the United States Treasury, and funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. SHERA provides an expedited path for eligible owners of qualified affordable housing projects to file batch applications for rental arrearage assistance on behalf of eligible tenants. Under the SHERA program, qualified owners of MassHousing, Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) and DHCD- financed properties with income-restricted units, as well as Local/Public Housing Authorities (L/PHAs), will be able to apply for help on behalf of all of their eligible residents with up to 18 months of rental arrears incurred during the eligible SHERA period starting on April 1, 2020. Income eligibility for households is 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) or lower. Owners (or their property managers) will inform residents with rental arrears about this program, and will work with eligible residents to apply for assistance on their behalf.
Audette said only about half of the housing authorities in the state had applied to the program. In the case of Franklin, at a cost of about $1,500, Franklin was able to reclaim more than $60,000 that tenants owed the authority through a variety of funding sources.