There's good news and bad news for the Meridian Housing Authority. The good news involves a distinction which the agency has earned. Out of 3,200 public housing authorities in the U.S., the Meridian Housing Authority is one of less than 10% of those that is now designated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as being a 'high performer.'
"Most of our properties are old, built in the mid 1930s. So, as we revitalize those properties, we've seen our scores increase,"says MHA Executive Director, Ronald J. Turner.
Scoring 92 out of a possible 100, for its high performance the Meridian Housing Authority will receive an additional 20% in allocated funding. Turner says this money will be used to make needed capitol repairs throughout the agency.
Now the bad news, because of sequestration in Washington, MHA officials say they are being forced to make cuts.
"Basically what our housing authority is doing at this point is that twice a month all of our employees unfortunately will have to be furloughed," says Turner. The furloughs started this week and are currently set to continue until at least September 22nd.
The Meridian Housing Authority has 1,215 units and more than 500 people on the waiting lists for 1, 2, and 3 bedroom housing. With only 10 vacancies at this time and sequestration, officials say they had no choice but to stop taking names for the one and two bedroom waiting lists.
Meanwhile, at this time Turner says there are no plans to make any layoffs.
"It's hard to predict at this point. We're just hoping that our congressional leaders will come to some kind of agreement with the budget which is definitely affecting the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but we're encouraged that we'll keep our progress going!"
As a result of sequestration, the budget for the Meridian Housing Authority has been slashed by 13%. This totals a loss of $753,026 of the agency's annual operating budget. Nationally, sequestration has resulted in approximately $85 billion in federal cuts across the board.
The last time the Meridian Housing Authority was recognized as a high performing agency by HUD was prior to Hurricane Katrina almost 8 years ago.