WALLINGFORD — Since the Wallingford Housing Authority toughened its stand on rent payment, hiring a lawyer to collect unpaid rent, some residents have expressed concerns.
The WHA owns three complexes: a 155-unit project for the elderly, 132 units for moderate-income tenants, and 30 units of Section 8 housing on McKenna Court. The Housing Authority of New Haven took over management of Wallingford Housing Authority properties in February 2013.
The WHA continues to struggle financially, and as of last month was running a deficit. In 2012-13, the agency lost $265,000. Renee Dobos, a New Haven housing authority employee, manages the WHA properties. In March, Dobos said the agency is $10,000 short of expected revenue every month due to unpaid rent and has outstanding rent payments totaling $80,000.
While some unpaid rent cases were resolved late last year through payment programs, Dobos said, there are still 25 tenants not paying rent and the agency is preparing legal action. The WHA entered a six-month agreement in March with attorney Geoffrey T. Einhorn to help collect back rent. Einhorn will be paid $39,750.
While payment programs were offered to the last group of tenants facing eviction, “we will not be generous with this next group,” Dobos said.
Wallingford Housing Authority board members supported Dobos.
“Maybe the word will get out,” said WHA Chairman Michael Misiti.
“They’re just trying to push people out to get in Section 8 people to get more money,” said Jen Gelineau, a WHA tenant on Wharton Brook Drive, referring to the federal housing voucher program.
In an email response, Dobos said families with Section 8 vouchers can live anywhere they choose.
“The authority does not have control over where a family chooses to live that possesses a voucher,” she said.
Regardless of whether housing is subsidized, “the tenant entered into an agreement with the authority to pay rent,” Dobos said. “The authority cannot operate if tenants do not pay their rent as this is the only revenue stream the authority has to run the operations of the organization.”
Gelineau said she is caught up on rent, and agrees that people should pay their rent, but is upset because she has heard of other tenants receiving eviction notices for being only a few days late.
Dobos said the authority tries to resolve unpaid rent cases before any eviction is started.
“The process employed is to enter housing court and work with an arbitrator to be sure the repayment agreements are fair and affordable to the tenant,” she said. “This forum provides an impartial meeting place to be heard and provide a repayment agreement that is affordable to tenant.”
Residents of the housing authority are not happy with New Haven’s administration, said Steven Alexander, a resident of South Side Terrace.
“They want Wallingford people running the Wallingford Housing Authority,” Alexander said.
Alexander said he has entered a rent repayment agreement.
“It’s scary,” he said.