The Taylor Housing Authority (THA) has helped citizens in need and plans to redevelop local public housing, but there are sometimes questions on how that might be accomplished.
The THA informed local community leaders of its past and future during a recent Greater Taylor Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Sirloin Stockade Jan. 27.
Taylor Housing Authority CEO Ebby Green and Chair Cheryl Webster made the presentation and answered questions as well.
“People ask us what does the housing authority do,” said Green. “People seem to think that we’re a federal organization, which we are not. People think that we work under the city of Taylor, which we don’t. So actually, we’re funded and we’re called called government quasi organizations, meaning that we get the funding but we’re not federal.”
Housing authorities started as a result of the Housing Act of 1937. More than 3,400 authorities are in the county. Texas is home to 434 of those authorities, with Austin hosting the oldest one built the year of the Act.
The Taylor Housing Authority was established in 1949 and is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Five people appointed by the mayor lead THA’s board, but the organization remains independent from the city. The commissioners include Webster, Vice Chair Debbie Kovar, Treasurer Don Hill, and Chris Osborn and Ryan Stiba.
THA programs include public housing like Mary Olson Apartments, built in 1972 with 43 units currently. A voucher program pays rent to landlords on behalf of participants. About 210 families participate in the voucher program, where families pay 30 percent of the monthly adjusted income toward their rent.
“The difference between the two is we are the landlords for public housing,” said Green, “and then on the voucher program, we pay landlords to provide housing for people.”
The Authority also partners with Habitat for Humanity in a homeownership program. Homes are slated to cost approximately $125,000.
“Thank you to the city of Taylor and Tom (Yantis, assistant city manager), they have given us 17 lots we’re going to be building houses on,” said Green.
THA can also assist with down payments and works with Williamson County in a homeless coalition. The organization also plans to provide GED classes for the community.
Right now, THA helps 250 families with affordable housing and pays $1.6 million annually to local landlords. They’ve helped three families purchase homes in the past year. THA is also redeveloping Avery and Mary Olson apartments, which the Authority predicts will produce more jobs in Taylor. The Avery redevelopment project has an approximate price tag of $18 million.
To apply for THA services, applications are accepted Tuesdays and Wednesdays 1-5 p.m. at 311 E. Seventh St. in Taylor. The wait time is currently 12-18 months. Voucher program applications are not being accepted at this time. To qualify, applicants must be either a four-person family earning less than $65,000 or a single person earning no more than $25,000.
Green encouraged business owners to keep their employees informed about THA’s services in case they qualify, especially if they live out of town.
“It also helps to retain your employees,” added Green, “because they have affordable housing in Taylor.”
Avery Apartments path to redevelopment
Avery Apartments was built in 1952 on Rio Grande Street in south Taylor. In 2015 after massive flooding, water took out approximately 40 units.
“When we first had the flooding, we had 40 families that overnight we had to find places for them,” said Green. “We paid for them to go to hotels. It cost us $32,000 for that one month, then we were able to get vouchers for them we applied with HUD, and each of them got a voucher and they went out looking for private units.”
THA asked HUD for funds to begin the demolition process but encountered delays along the way.
“We filled out this application, which took a long time, then we had a take-down ceremony,” said Green, “and then we were ready to take it down and realized it had asbestos, so that’s why it’s slowed us down.”
Residents at Avery moved out by the end of 2016. Once Avery is rebuilt, THA plans to move residents from Mary Olson to Avery and then redevelop Mary Olson afterward.
“(Avery) is going to look different than what it was. As a board, we’re starting to look at different ideas,” said Webster. “We want it to look consistent as we can in the area. We don’t want it to just do this monolith thing in the middle of all these homes. The same thing will probably happen with Mary Olson.”