HACA to open public housing waitlist for most properties

Danielle Ohl
Contact Reporterdohl@capgaznews.com

For the first time in more than a year, the Annapolis housing authority will open the waitlist for its public housing properties.

The Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis will allow people to submit preliminary applications later this month to live in one of the authority’s public housing properties, including the Bloomsbury Square, Morris H. Blum, Harbour House, Eastport Terrace and Robinwood communities. The application period will be open for three weeks beginning Aug. 20 and ending Sept. 6.

The Newtowne 20 complex is not accepting new tenants, as it is undergoing redevelopment in the coming months.

The housing authority opened waitlists for specific properties in April, but has not opened the waitlists overall since June 2017. There are hundreds of people on the site-based waitlists — a small amount compared to the Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County list, which is several thousand people long.

But placing residents isn’t exactly a one-family-to-one-unit equation. One resident can sign up for multiple waitlists. Similarly, HACA often must evaluate several applicants for one unit, as applicants might no longer need or qualify for the available space by the time they’re considered.

HACA officials hope to reach residents wherever they are during the open period, they said. They hope to advertise in Baltimore, the surrounding counties and the Eastern Shore.

“That’s why we’re opening it, because our list is so small — which is another reason why we’re casting a wider net,” said housing programs director Tanya Diggs. “The numbers are pretty low. We don’t want to run into the problem of having vacant units and no one to fill them.”

Opening the waitlists is a significant development for a city with 5,590 households across the low-income spectrum, according to the Annapolis Five-Year Consolidated Housing and Community Development Plan. There were 16,466 total households according to the data.

Affordability is the city’s biggest housing issue, according to the city plan.

More than 50.6 percent of renter households spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing, while 35.4 percent of homeowners paying a mortgage spend that much on housing, according to census data. The city’s disabled and elderly populations are most affected by high housing costs. Poor communities of color are disproportionately affected by housing issues such as affordability, incomplete kitchen or plumbing amenities and overcrowding.

“With the cost of living and rental prices steadily increasing, many families in and around Annapolis are unable to find affordable places to live,” Sandra Chapman, chair of HACA’s Board of Commissioners, said in a statement. “Many families are paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing or are overcrowded or both.”

HACA does not, in its fiscal 2018 Annual Plan, provide its own analysis for city need based on race or ability, a practice that came under question when the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, or FHEO, reviewed the plan. Though the FHEO approved the plan in May, it expressed concern that the authority could not adequately serve “all protected class groups in an equal manner.”

Maryland Legal Aid, on behalf of the HACA Resident Advisory Board, also indicated residents with disabilities have needed legal assistance to request unit transfers.

Chief Financial Officer Eileen Neely said HACA does have data on property residents, but does not have the raw data to analyze the larger need across the city. The city government hires a consultant and uses census data to create its report, said Theresa Wellman, the city’s community development administrator.

“Unless we’re making big policy changes, figuring out if the needs of the (Annapolis) community are different than who we’re serving is a luxury,” Neely said. “If we we’re going to make any analysis of are our preferences the right ones, should we explore new locations ... then these become really important. But for running public housing, not so much.”

HACA plans to update next year’s plan using analysis from the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership, Neely said.

Waitlist participants are assessed on a first-come, first-serve basis, but HACA implements preferences such as homelessness, veteran status and local residency. Applicants will save their spot on the list until the authority can determine whether they qualify for public housing.

Those interested in securing a spot on the waitlist can apply in person or by mail at HACA’s main office, 1217 Madison Street; by fax to (410) 267-8290; or by email to admissions@hacamd.org.

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A previous version of this story incorrectly stated how residents will be considered on the waitlist. Residents will be considered on a first-come first-serve basis. The story has been updated.
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