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SMHA considers ‘working family’ preference

Springfield housing group change would aid working poor.

The Springfield Metropolitan Housing Authority is considering adopting a local preference of “working family” to its public housing program that would make assistance more accessible to families who have working adults in their household.

A family would be considered eligible for this preference if its head, a spouse or another adult member is working at least 20 hours per week at no less than minimum wage and has been continuously employed for at least the past 60 days. The new preference would also be extended to all elderly families ages 62 or older and to all families receiving income based on inability to work.

“It’s really designed to help those families that are working, but maybe they are struggling to make ends meet,” said Par Tolliver, SMHA executive director.

“It will help lighten the load for providing for their families,” he continued. “Paying rent becomes a strong barrier to how we live weekly and monthly. If we can help assist these families in those areas, we figure this would help.”

SMHA Asset Manager Jennifer Birmele said the need among these groups has grown as the economy declined.

“It seems the people who need the most help are the ones who are struggling and do have jobs,” said Birmele. “A good portion of our waiting list are people who are working but still can’t get by. We’ll be able to assist them faster.”

After a 30-day comment period ends, the proposal could go before the board to be voted on at its March 18 meeting.

Currently established local preferences include:

  • Veterans
  • Involuntarily displaced
  • Homeless family/individual
  • Rent burdened (someone who is paying more than 40 percent of income for housing)
  • Elevated blood level (for families in older homes that are abated because of lead-based paint)

Tolliver feels the community will embrace the preference.

“I don’t look at it as a controversial one,” said Tolliver. “We’re in the business to help all those who are less fortunate. This is another way to extend our services to those who work hard to make ends meet.

“The way the economy has changed, people who thought they were pretty secure just aren’t as secure now.”

Birmele said many communities have added the “working family” preference with success, and “it helps keep us more viable and healthy, so we can help more in the community.

“It is going to be a win for the community,” she added. “The more people we can help ease the burden on their rent, the more money that is going to be spent in our community.”

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