The Times West Virginian

March 21, 2014

Funding for housing authorities decreases

Nearly $8 million in federal dollars for West Virginia announced this week

By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, as well as U.S. Representative Nick Rahall, announced this week that housing authorities across the state will receive almost $8 million in funding for public housing projects.

The funding is through the Public Housing Capital Fund Program, and will total $7,926,269.

Locally, the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority received $175,049.

While executive director John Martys said they always appreciate the funding, he said the amount is lower than in previous years.

“That is significantly less than last year, 30 or 40 percent less,” Martys said. “It is a significant decrease.”

Each year, the housing authorities around the state receive capital funds for improvements to their apartment complexes. But Martys said that, as the years have gone on, funding has continued to decrease, and a significant backlog on improvements and maintenance to apartment complexes has been growing.

“We’ve been trying, all of the housing authorities around the county, to convince HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) that there is a significant backlog in capital improvements that need to be done,” Martys said. “In Fairmont, our apartments are in good shape, but nationwide the housing units are deteriorating at a rapid rate, and Congress hasn’t been giving nearly the funding to keep them in good condition.”

Martys said that nationwide over the past 10 years, there has been a $1 billion decrease in capital improvement money. And locally, there has been a significant decrease as well.

“I think about 10 years ago, our average capital improvement grant was close to $300,000, and now it’s down to $175,000,” Martys said.

Martys said that the organization as a whole receives about 60 percent of its funding from federal sources and 40 percent from other sources, such as through grants, state initiatives, the West Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and some corporate contributions from banks and other institutions.

The Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority has 136 apartments. The apartments have subsidized rent, and tenants are charged according to their income. Martys said the average rent for a three-bedroom apartment is around $200 a month.

“It’s fairly steeply subsidized,” Martys said. The average family the housing authority serves makes between $10,000 and $20,000 in income a year.

While it is called the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority, it actually covers far more than just Fairmont and Morgantown, also helping those elsewhere in Marion and Monongalia counties, as well as those in Preston and Taylor counties.

The housing authority aims to assist low-income families with good housing opportunities through various programs, including affordable apartments, low-interest loans for home repair, help with mortgages, and home construction.

Martys said that anyone needed help with housing can contact the housing authority by going to the office at 103 12th Street Fairmont, calling 304-363-0860, or visiting the website at fmhousing.com.

“We can direct them to any number of services we provide,” Martys said. “We can help them rent a unit, buy or refinance a home, or give guidance and counseling on personal financing.”

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.