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HANO rejects liaison council

SECTION 8 RESIDENTS REQUEST INPUT

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  Representatives from the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) showed reluctance to revive a now-defunct council consisting of Section 8 housing residents at a July 16 meeting of the New Orleans City Council's Housing and Human Needs Committee. The council, which was dissolved in recent years, was created in 1994.

  The Section 8 program provides subsidized vouchers to low-income people to assist them in paying for an apartment or house. The government currently provides more than 17,000 of these vouchers in Orleans Parish.

  Tony Ucciferri, newly appointed director of the Housing Choice Voucher Program at HANO, said it would be "difficult to get things accomplished" in a council of tenants from the Section 8 voucher program. He said because the subsidized vouchers are attached to individual clients and not to the actual rental properties, participants are scattered throughout New Orleans. Therefore, he said, a representative council would be difficult to organize and maintain.

  Kim Ford, the former Section 8 Tenant Liaison for HANO, said in an interview after the meeting that HANO has been "policing itself" and has had little oversight from tenants and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). "If we don't have strong tenant leadership, we will continue on the same path of indiscretions we have been on without adequate stakeholder involvement," she said. She said the Resident Tenant Council could provide needed oversight to HANO, and she proposed the Mahalia Jackson Theater, parks, and churches as potential meeting places.

  Ford also alleged several abuses by HANO, including failure to respond to tenants' complaints of sub-par conditions, removal of vouchers from and eviction of tenants, and inspectors' approval of houses with animal infestations. Much of this, she said, is due to the difficulty that low-income tenants have in getting to HANO's offices, and to the number of counselors employed locally by HANO. Thirty counselors are responsible for taking calls, interviewing families and assisting tenants. Each handles approximately 525 cases — a number Ford called "impossible and ridiculous."

  Ucciferri said complaints could be filed on HANO's website (www.hano.org), and would be routed to compliance officers. — MATTHEW HOSE

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