CAIRO — Housing and Urban Development officials on Thursday informed about 40 remaining families of two public housing complexes in Cairo that are slated for demolition that they have until June 30 to move, at which time they may face eviction proceedings.
HUD spokesman Jereon Brown said that housing officials will work with families facing “extenuating circumstances,” such as an apartment falling through at the last minute as the summer deadline approaches.
But otherwise, according to a Q&A flier that HUD provided to affected residents of the Alexander County Housing Authority, eviction proceedings will begin July 2. “Please note an eviction on your rental record could affect your ability to rent other housing in the future” as “landlords typically use rental and eviction history to select who they will rent to,” the flier stated.
HUD took over the housing authority in early 2016 and plans to return it to local control by the end of the year. Brown said that in addition to the health and safety risks to tenants who remain in the complexes, the housing authority cannot afford to continue paying utility costs past the summer.
Additionally, the flier states that the deadline was selected because officials “wanted to allow time for families with children to complete the school year” in Cairo, and “have time to secure new housing and enroll their children in school prior to the start of the school year in July.” Most families have had to move to other communities because Cairo does not have many private homes for rent that could pass a health and safety assessment. The school year generally begins in mid- to late-August in Southern Illinois.
Brown said the agency’s goal is to “seal off the area” and use the savings for maintenance and upkeep of the remaining 155 ACHA public housing units in Cairo at two highrises and a handful of small developments around town.
Just over a year ago, federal housing officials announced plans to relocate 185 families from Elmwood and McBride because they are no longer safe. HUD is providing each family with a voucher that subsidizes rent in the private market.
Residents of these two complexes have not had to pay rent since last May under the terms of a settlement agreement stemming from a lawsuit brought by some tenants of the long-neglected complexes against their landlord, the ACHA.
As a result, the local housing authority’s board on Wednesday moved to write off more than $370,000 in uncollected rent debt. Of that figure, about 80 percent was attributed to the rent abatement agreement for Elmwood and McBride residents.
In February, HUD also told about 30 families that they would have to move out of two housing developments in the nearby community of Thebes. Because that decision came much later, Brown said that a deadline has not yet been set for the Thebes residents to vacate their public housing units.
This past week, Sen. Tammy Duckworth placed a hold on all HUD nominees that are awaiting Senate confirmation because she said the agency “failed to respond to her request for detailed information” regarding its decision to close the Thebes complexes. “It is unacceptable for HUD to make yet another rash decision that uproots dozens of families from their homes without providing a detailed explanation, especially after Donald Trump promised throughout his campaign to help communities exactly like Cairo and Thebes,” Duckworth said in a press release.
HUD responded to the joint letter from Illinois Sens. Duckworth and Dick Durbin shortly after Duckworth’s statement was released. But Ben Garmisa, spokesman for Duckworth, said last week that her hold remains on the nominees because she was not satisfied with the agency’s response.
The U.S. Senate defines a hold as an informal practice by which senators can inform their floor leader that they do not wish for a particular bill or nominee to reach the floor for consideration. Prior to Duckworth's action, there was already a hold on two Trump nominees to lead HUD's offices of Public and Indian Housing and the Federal Housing Administration, which have been stalled for months. The hold on a third nominee pending Senate confirmation to lead the agency's Policy Development and Research office is new, according to a HUD official.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson made note of his desire to see the nominees approved to allow the housing agency to run at full capacity during a recent Senate hearing on his agency’s proposed budget.