Resident Advisory Board discusses changes for Section 8, public housing

Thursday, November 1, 2012 | 10:29 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA —Public housing and Section 8 residents talked about eliminating barriers for people seeking public and affordable housing in Columbia during a Resident Advisory Board meeting Thursday night.

Housing and Urban Development recently revised its definition of family in order to avoid discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity. Members of the Resident Advisory Board reviewed the definition at a meeting held at Paquin Towers.

"We have already basically had this (set of protections) in place based on the city of Columbia's Human Rights ordinance, but now this adds federal support for these definitions," said Phil Steinhaus, Columbia Housing Authority CEO.

"Family" can denote a single person, parents with children and various groups of people living together — regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status, Steinhaus said.

"That's really the way we've always defined a family," Steinhaus said.

Members of the Resident Advisory Board also discussed measures that would protect Section 8 tenants from eviction if a house was foreclosed.

"If you were renting a house on the Section 8 program that got foreclosed upon, they can't kick you out of the house. They have to continue renting to you until the end of the lease," Steinhaus said.

The policy revisions were drafted by Nan McKay, a former housing authority executive director who has provided update services to the housing authority since 2006. Steinhaus said receiving update services is a common practice, noting that the city receives updates from Missouri regarding applicable state laws.

"It's really difficult sometimes to keep up with all the changes with your policy unless you are just reading all of those (Housing and Urban Development) rules," Steinhaus said.

Proposals are presented to the Resident Advisory Board 45 days prior to a vote by the housing authority board of commissioners. The board's comments are included when the proposals are voted on, Steinhaus said.

Maymie Carter, who attended her first Resident Advisory Board meeting Thursday, said she approved the proposals.

"I think it's a great idea," Carter said.

The Resident Advisory Board will discuss the housing authority's five-year plan during their regular December meeting.

Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu.

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