published Monday, July 9th, 2012

Chattanooga Housing Authority seeks to reduce unpaid rental fees

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    Betsy McCright, executive director of the Chattanooga Housing Authority.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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CHA rent loss

2008: $98,000

2009: $125,486

2010: $144,999

Evictions for nonpayment

2008: 175

2009: 86

2010: 117

Source: Chattanooga Housing Authority

The Chattanooga Housing Authority plans to lose less money in unpaid rents and spend less time on evictions with the hire of Lee Danley, the housing authority's new in-house attorney.

CHA also will implement a policy change that will allow partial rent payments.

Nonpayment of rent is a perennial problem. In July 2011 CHA reported that from 2008 to 2010, 378 people were evicted and the agency lost more than $368,000 in unpaid rental fees.

The changes were spurred by a substandard performance mark this year on an annual assessment from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

CHA got a substandard mark because of the way the housing agency collects its tenant account receivables, housing officials said. The housing agency was $11,000 short in the amount it needed to collect to get a standard mark on the assessment.

CHA's management score — 14 of 25 — was one point under standard and it comes less than a year after the agency celebrated getting off HUD's troubled housing authority list.

"We're going to make it right," said Betsy McCright, CHA executive director.

She announced the substandard score at the June board meeting. Then she talked about her plan for improvement.

"I am very pleased to introduce attorney Lee Danley," she said. "He will be doing evictions and collections work for us in-house."

She said having Danley will help the housing authority collect more money and get people into court for evictions more quickly. That means fewer rent nonpayments to carry over from month to month.

For the quarter ending March 31, CHA officials wrote off $66,112.08 in public housing tenant accounts, records show.

Even though the agency will begin accepting partial rent payments, it still will have the right to evict nonpayers.

The change will "allow CHA to make a conservative effort to work with residents that have a portion of the money owed, with a reasonable amount of time to pay the account in full. Staff believes this change in procedure will assist in lowering write-offs and reducing the number of vacancies," according to the report.

The changes are a part of a remediation plan that CHA is preparing to present to HUD, said McCright.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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