MY TURN: Washington Housing Authority, the rest of the story

Published 2:05 pm Monday, December 5, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

On Nov. 16, 2022 the newspaper published an article concerning the WISH program, established by the Washington Housing Authority. Thanks to the newspaper for allowing me to comment on the Washington Housing Authority’s WISH Program request to the city.

The lead in paragraph in this article states,”Washington City Council voted 4-1 in favor of a promissory note and deed of trust that will be given to the Washington Housing Authority’s WISH Program.” The Washington Housing Authority owns the lots given to them by the Redevelopment Commission. Can you obtain a promissory note and deed of trust on property you don’t own? Is this an unsecured note for $528,000. I have it now. The City of Washington is serving as a bank for the Housing Authority. Just go to the city for housing loans and “cash flow.”

Prior to the meeting, my research and phone calls, resulted in the four agencies who offer loans for first time home buyers who are low to moderate income people, Congress allocated $5 billion under the American Rescue Plan to assist local communities with their housing needs. Why did the Washington Housing Authority not apply to one of those agencies listed for the loan?

Here is what we have today for our tax payers: maybe an unsecured loan in the amount of $528,000 to be repaid by the Housing Authority,(at no interest ) over a three year period. The city is going to “give” the water, sewer, and electrical material cost, at an undisclosed amount, to the Housing Authority. The cost of one house is $173,000 minus the payment in lieu of taxes, a gift amount equal to $47,880.00. The cost of the new house is now $124,120. The going interest rate for single-family dwellings is 6% and the length of the proposed loan is 30 years. The housing authority is financing, approximately $125,000 for 30 years at 6% interest rate. The payment each month for the single-family dwellings is equal to $744.44 per month. This cost does not include taxes, insurance, and utility cost such as water, sewer, electric, garbage collection and storm water expenses. What is the maintenance cost going to be for the homeowner? Does the City Manager have authority to give away utility cost to anybody?

Now, here comes the “rest of the story.” How did the Housing Authority obtain the cost of $176,000 for a single-family dwelling or $528,000 for three houses? Did they go out for bids? Who knows? I would love to see this contract document. The $560,000 is now all contingent on “legal review” and City Manager execution. In other words, City Attorney clean it up for us. Just do all the work for the Housing Authority and charge the legal fees to the city. The Housing Authority produced no documentation on anything concerning the loan. Is the city now working for the Housing Authority? I believe we are. Where are the minutes requesting the loan and bid tabulations on the new houses? In other words, the taxpayers are giving an interest-free loan to the Housing Authority and taking the money out of our savings account. The city will be losing interest on $580,000 over a minimum of three years. Is this a good return on investment for our taxpayers? You tell me.

Finally, please do not fault the paper for not having all the information on the loan or gifts to the Housing Authority by the city. This reporter never received any detailed information on the loan and neither did I. Normally, if you want any money from the city you have a detailed request form submitted by the agency to the city. The Chairperson for the Washington Housing Authority is the Mayor’s wife. The Mayor appointed his own wife to the Washington Housing Authority and now she is Chairperson.

Bobby Roberson is a member of Washington City Council.