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Oswego’s Rental Assistance Program Updated

HUD proposal

OSWEGO – It’s the same thing – only different.

At Monday night’s Planning and Development Committee meeting, Mayor Billy Barlow and Nathan Emmons, Director of The Rental Assistance Program, presented highlights of the city’s Administrative Plan for the Rental Assistance Program.

The committee sent the proposed updated plan to the full council to schedule a public hearing.

Mayor Billy Barlow, right, and Nathan Emmons, Director of The Rental Assistance Program, discuss the proposed policy. Seated in back are councilors Kevin Hill and Susan McBrearty.
Mayor Billy Barlow, right, and Nathan Emmons, Director of The Rental Assistance Program, discuss the proposed policy. Seated in back are councilors Kevin Hill and Susan McBrearty.

“This, basically, is 100 percent a new document. It’s not like we took page 7 from here and slide it into here,” Emmons told Oswego County Today indicating the two large stacks of papers on his desk.

The current policy is nearly 200 pages. The proposed policy weighs around 10 pounds and is more than 400 pages long.

A public housing authority has already looked over the draft and given their approval.

Now if the city does something and it is challenged, the city has a solid foundation to back up its actions, Emmons explained

The document has been years in the making, “ever since I took office in 2016,” the mayor said. “It’s a program that we’ve been trying to improve, not just the way it operates and how effective it is but the public perception as well.”

Whenever there was a “problem” home in a neighborhood, people would just assume it was a HUD home, the mayor said.

The HUD office was one small part of the Community Development Office. Barlow has since made then separate entities because “They are two different offices with different priorities,” he said.

The changes being proposed and those already in place over the last two years seek to change the program from a “handout” to more of a “hand up,” the mayor explained.

They have prioritized the rating system for placing people in homes, he said, noting that they added military veterans to the list.

They also added a Workforce Development component.

Another reform dealt with housing standards of HUD homes. There isn’t any reason why someone on rental assistance should be subjected to housing that doesn’t meet the city code, the mayor said.

If the house fails an inspection and has to be inspected again, the second inspection will cost the landlord $100 and if more are required, it’s another $50 each time, Barlow said.

“That, in my opinion, has proven to be effective,” he said. The failed inspection rate has decreased from 77 percent to 55 percent so far this year, he added.

The city has also enhanced its criminal background check of potential tenants.

This is a total comprehensive plan; the first since 1976, the mayor said.

It’s been a lot of change in a short period of time, the mayor said recognizing Emmons and his staff for all their hard work.

“You don’t talk about (the HUD office) a lot but it’s a real success story that I’m proud of,” Barlow said.

Emmons will have a copy of the document available for review in his office. It will also be posted on the city’s website in the near future, he said.