How HUD throws Grandma in the street

Audrey Jones thought she had found the last place she’d ever live when she moved into Huntsville’s Stone Manor apartments.  Annie Harrison had a nice two-bedroom unit at the complex — until HUD and the federal government decided to convert Stone Manor into public housing.  The Huntsville Housing Authority, backed by HUD and Washington, canceled all of the leases and started kicking out all of those who made too much money to qualify for assistance, including Jones, and left many residents in limbo (h/t HA reader Karen A):

Audrey Jones, widowed a year ago, sold her home in English Village last summer to move into a well-lit and quiet, two-bedroom place at Stone Manor Luxury Apartments.

“I thought I was going to be here the rest of my life,” Jones said. “I loved this place.”

But what happens when the Huntsville Housing Authority, backed by federal regulations and federal dollars, converts your home into public housing while you still live there?

At age 73, Jones now counts herself among the “displaced persons” – residents forced to leave Stone Manor because they earn too much money. Some will get a few thousand dollars to help with relocation. Others won’t get anything.

When HHA bought Stone Manor, it cancelled all the leases signed by the residents, who could be forgiven for thinking that a contract is a legally binding instrument.  On February 27th, HHA sent a letter to all residents essentially demanding that they all apply for public housing or get the hell out of their homes.  Many of them do not qualify, because they earn too much, although HHA didn’t do much to clarify that, either.  Initially, residents were told that they couldn’t make more than $18k/year, but now they’ve adjusted that to $37,800 for individuals.

In some cases, that didn’t help.  Harrison, for instance, found out that the initial word — that she wouldn’t qualify and had to move — was incorrect.  Later, though, HHA officials assured her she could stay, but that she’d have to move out of her unit into a one-bedroom.  And since she now qualified for the one-bedroom unit, they won’t pay moving expenses if she chooses to move elsewhere, because HHA says they’re not forcing her to move.

For typically heartless social engineering, try topping this:

Jana Rice makes more than $37,800 a year as a paralegal. That’s too much to avoid eviction at Stone Manor. But Rice says a representative of the Housing Authority suggested a way to keep her apartment.

“She said, ‘If you really want to stay all you have to do is get pregnant,’ ” Rice said. “I was flabbergasted.”

And for clueless bureaucratic fumbling, you just can’t beat this:

The first letter also warned that no one should move right away, not until they get a second letter called “a formal notice of relocation eligibility.” Otherwise, they could miss out on thousands of dollars in federal compensation.

“We’ll be sitting around for two months wondering if this notice is coming,” said Catherine DeRisi, who works for Teledyne Brown Engineering and who also counts among the displaced.

As of Friday, Jones said she’s still waiting. DeRisi said she received the second notice late Thursday. And it only made her angrier. “They are lowballing us,” DeRisi said.

They sent misleading information about other housing options in the area as well.  HHA only had one caseworker on Stone Manor to deal with all of the applications and questions until a couple of weeks ago, when they added four more.  Residents feel betrayed, and wonder why the federal government wants to force people onto public housing assistance when they got by just fine without it before the buyout at Stone Manor.

It’s a good question, but one that almost answers itself.  HUD wants to show that it’s succeeding by providing more housing to more people, regardless of the fact that they actually have to dislocate people in order to do it.  Bureaucrats want to ensure job security, especially when the economy makes the private sector even less appealing for paper-pushers.  And this administration is not likely to mind getting more people dependent on government.