Making a Reservation for Success
Gordon Anderson, TDHCA, 07/19/13
Like many public agencies serving the rapidly growing I-35 corridor, the New Braunfels Housing Authority found itself struggling to help a client base growing at an equally fast pace.
The agency's Housing Choice Voucher Assistance Program, for example, had an annual turnover rate of approximately 50 out of 292 vouchers. It could take years for some households to obtain one.
Compounding this was the fact that many tenants simply could not pay their portion of the first month's rent and a security deposit equal to another month's contract rent at one time.
"Security and utility deposit payments have always been an issue for our voucher clients," says Nadine Mardock, housing authority executive director.
Beginning in 1995, the agency also utilized Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) funding through TDHCA's HOME Program on a limited basis, assisting about 30 clients a year with up to 24 months of rental assistance. Unlike the Voucher Program, HOME TBRA funds can also help pay security and utility deposits.
This system worked, but Ms. Mardock acknowledges there was still a waiting list. All that changed in 2011, however, when TDHCA transitioned away from awarding traditional contracts through its Reservation System and eliminated the limitations on the amount of funding available under the HOME TBRA program.
Sensing an opportunity to embrace an entirely new effort, the housing authority decided to apply for several concurrent grants and "roll" the TBRA assistance into its voucher system, she says.
Clients needing long-term rental assistance may apply for the Voucher Program while benefiting from the TBRA rent plus deposit assistance, Ms. Mardock explains. The TBRA Program's self-sufficiency component allows the agency to increase a client's independence while they await the voucher.
TDHCA's Reservation System gives the housing authority the flexibility to make it all work.
"We were able to cut the wait for rental assistance in privately-owned, tenant-based housing to a matter of weeks," she says. "Clients no longer have to wait years."
There is no other housing authority in Texas utilizing HOME Reservation System funds in this manner. Needless to say, Ms. Mardock is extremely proud of her agency's efforts.
That pride was validated when the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials awarded the New Braunfels Housing Authority with both an Award of Merit and an Award of Excellence (one of only 20 awarded) for its innovative use of the Department's TBRA Reservation System funds.
Ms. Mardock is confident other agencies can take this example and begin to tackle the massive problems facing housing authorities. "Sometimes getting outside the box makes things better in the box," she states.
"Never think that your contribution, no matter how small, does not make a difference."
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HOME Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program