Public housing proves safer annually

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Public housing in Elizabethton has seen unprecedented success in the declining number of lease terminations that result from criminal activity over the last decade.
Though numbers for December will not be reported till January, only three residents have been evicted, less than half of the number in 2014.
“People feel safe living here, and the community can see that we’re being diligent,” said Dale Shook, chairman of the Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency’s board of commissioners.
Since 2006, the numbers of annual lease terminations resulting from criminal activity have fluctuated in the teens and twenties, but since 2012, those numbers have decreased by about three evictions per year, from 15, to 11, to seven and now to three.
EHDA Executive Director Kelly Geagley said this can be attributed to discretion during the application process.
“You’re screened before your lease is approved, and we don’t tolerate criminal activity from residents,” he said.
During the application process, prospective residents must pass background checks and other screening measures. Even if they break the law off premises, their leases can be terminated. Shook said the small number of lease terminations speaks highly of the residents and the EHDA staff.
“It shows we’re doing our job,” said Shook.
EHDA houses residents in 326 apartments. In some instances, residents are unable to pay their rent, or choose not to pay.
After the first month of late rent, Geagley said they attempt to collect rent and file a detainer warrant. Residents then have the option of paying the due rent, along with the next month’s rent and the cost of the detainer warrant, and if they do not, EHDA takes them to court. After two months of unpaid rent, Geagley said residents no longer have the option to pay and stay.
The annual budget accounts for these losses and includes a $14,000 allowance to cover it.
Since August 2014, 20 residents have accrued debt to EHDA, totaling $9,308.20. These residents have all since vacated the premises, and Geagley said some of them simply moved without giving notice.
Commissioners voted Tuesday to liquidate these damages after continuous efforts to collect the debts have been unsuccessful.
Additionally, they elected officers for the year 2016. Vice-Chairman Larry Gobble was elected Chairman, taking over for Shook, and Commissioner Stan Bailey was elected to the position of Vice-Chairman. Both have served on the board of commissioners for years and Geagley assured their qualification for these roles.

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