Thousands in Pinal wait up to 4 years for low income housing
By Dana Trumbull
Pinal County Housing Operations Manager Rolanda Cephas delivered the department’s monthly report to the Board Of Supervisors (BOS). The practice was initiated earlier this year to keep Supervisors informed as the county works to raise the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) rating for the Pinal County Housing Department.
Cephas reported that, for the fiscal year 2017-18, the department had 444 of the 584 Section 8 vouchers allocated by HUD in use, resulting in a 77.7% utilization rate. The budget authority, however, is at 102.4%. “Although we’re not using all of the vouchers, we are spending the money,” she said. The Public Housing program ended the fiscal year with two vacancies in public housing, resulting in an occupancy rate of 98.56%. The target vacancy rate established by HUD is 98%.
“Our Section 8 waiting list has about 3,500 people on it, and our Public Housing waiting list has about 5,500 people,” Cephas elaborated.
“Applications for our Public Housing remain open. Applications are available if you walk into the Housing office; they are also available on Pinal County’s website. On the website, under the Housing Department, you can click a link that will allow you to complete a fillable application form online and automatically submit it.”
The Section 8 waiting list, however, is closed right now, with a 2-4 year timeframe for availability. The wait for Public Housing can be 6 months to 2 years, depending on the desired bedroom size.
Supervisor Rios commented, “It appears that affordable housing continues to be a problem in Pinal County. There’s a lot of working poor families who are trying to find places. When we had this discussion a while back, someone on the Board suggested that we look at some of these new housing developments and see if it’s possible to negotiate with them for the affordable type housing that people could qualify for, and I’m not sure if we ever followed up on that. But if we’re looking at waiting lists of 3,500 or 5,500, that’s a lot of folks.”
After some discussion, Chairman House requested that County Manager Greg Stanley prepare a work session. “I’ve talked to several developers who have shown interest, but I didn’t know the details as to what we could or couldn’t offer or how that works. We need to know that, so that we can all, as a uniform group, work hard to be sure this is a priority.”
Call to the Public
The Board of Supervisors took some heat during the July 25, 2018 Board meeting for their failure to support Supervisor Rios’ resolution condemning the separation of immigrant families at the border. David Clark, Florence area resident, spoke briefly, clarifying some of the misconceptions voiced by supervisors during the June 27 meeting. “Jobs of the 21st century will not come to our communities unless we demonstrate a commitment to being an inclusive, fair and forward thinking county.”
Roberto Reveles, Gold Canyon, also encouraged supervisors to move forward with a revised and “enhanced” resolution, as proposed by Supervisor Smith at the June 27 meeting. Reveles’ comments may be read in full here.
RTA Tax Struck Down
County Manager Greg Stanley reported that the BOS had received an email from the attorney who is representing Pinal County and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in the litigation brought by the Goldwater Institute concerning the legality of the tax structure that narrowly passed last November in support of the RTA’s county-wide transportation plan. “He felt like it went really well for the RTA and the county,” stated Stanley. “He anticipates a ruling, we think, by the end of this week.”
That ruling, did, indeed, come on August 2; however, it was not in favor of the RTA and Pinal County. The county, which has been collecting the tax since April 1 and holding the monies in escrow, pending the outcome of the lawsuit, may appeal. If the ruling stands, Pinal will be required to reimburse taxpayers for the collected funds and rethink the method for financing the approved transportation plan. The BOS meets again on August 8.
Multiple Grants for PCSO Task Forces
Among the routine approvals of current billings, liquor licenses and easements, the consent agenda for the July 25 BOS meeting included five items (X, Y, Z, AA and BB) requiring amendments to the previous or current fiscal year budgets to facilitate grant funding for Pinal County Sheriff’s Office task forces. With the exception of item X, which requires a grant match, the items do not affect the General Fund.
The approved grants include:
FY 17/18 budget amendment for the Arizona Department of Public Safety Vehicle Theft Task Force IGA, transferring reserve appropriation from Fund 213 (Grants/Project Contingency) to Fund 203 (Sheriff’s Grants) in the amount of $5,011, while also transferring $2,534 from the General Fund into Fund 203 for the required 25% grant match (Item X).
Grant award from the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission in the amount of $138,640 (Item Y), DUI Abatement grant agreement from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in the amount of $50,000 (Item Z), High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area grant agreement between the city of Tucson and the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in the amount of $102,704 (Item AA), and a grant award between the city of Tucson and the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in the amount of $17,202. All grant funds are designated to be used for overtime, wages and employee related expenses for PCSO Task Force participants.
Also on the consent agenda, Item CC approved the Crime Victim Compensation Grant Agreement for the current fiscal year between the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and Pinal County for $230,350.
A series of seven Executive Sessions advised the BOS in confidence on a number of issues, including legal advice concerning the ADEQ proposed amendment to the Johnson Utilities Section 11 Wastewater Treatment Plant Aquifer Protection Permit (APP), Pinal County’s ability, process and procedures for implementation of a potential moratorium related to structures within Pinal County to be serviced by Johnson Utilities and legal advice and possible purchase of roadway right of way in coordination with the RTA project.