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The following list of questions and answers was provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concerning the mandated relocation of about 200 families living at the Alexander County Housing Authority's Elmwood Place and McBride Place complexes because of health and safety concerns.

1. Why is HUD asking residents of Elmwood and McBride to move?

HUD carefully examined every option to avoid this but in the end, these properties are simply no longer suitable for habitation. Built in 1942, Elmwood and McBride are simply beyond repair. While HUD is exploring all options about possible future redevelopment, relocation is the only option to protect the health and safety of residents.

2. What will HUD do to help the residents of Elmwood Place and McBride Place?

All eligible residents currently under lease at the Elmwood and McBride properties will be offered Tenant Protection Vouchers, a unique form of rental assistance provided to HUD-assisted households forced to relocate from their homes.

3. When will residents at Elmwood and McBride be required to move?

All families should be moved within 9 to 11 months of receiving their Tenant Protection Voucher. Counselors will work with families and take into consideration other time constraints, such as the school year calendar.

4. What happens should a family choose not to move?

Households currently living at Elmwood and McBride with HUD will be required to move since the housing authority will be securing these properties for future demolition. HUD will provide relocation counseling services to all affected families to find the best relocation option for each household. This relocation is necessary due to health and safety reasons. However, residents can choose to move locally or anywhere in the country where a recipient housing authority operates a voucher program.

5. How will HUD help residents to find another home?

In addition to providing residents with Tenant Protection Vouchers, HUD will offer one-on-one counseling and relocation assistance to help residents find a new home, either in the area or anywhere else in the country where a local Public Housing Authority operates a voucher program.

6. Will I have to move away from Cairo?

Finding adequate housing in or near Cairo will be difficult. The demand for affordable housing in Cairo is extremely high, yet the supply of available housing is low. Families will have the option to live anywhere in the country, including available units in Cairo and surrounding communities. However, given the availability of vacant units in the area, Elmwood and McBride residents may be moving to communities outside of Cairo and Alexander County.

7. How many Elmwood and McBride families are being moved?

Eighty-three families in Elmwood and 103 families in McBride.

8. When will Elmwood and McBride residents be required to move? Will they be evicted?

HUD will work with every family to find a new home. The relocation process for families will begin with issuance of a new Tenant Protection Voucher to all eligible families. Once residents receive their voucher, they will have 60 days to locate suitable housing, with the option of two 30-day extensions if you need more time to find a new home. Residents who decide to leave Cairo may not have the same flexibilities for extensions, so residents should contact their new housing authority as soon as possible. Policies will vary between different housing authorities. Residents who require reasonable accommodations for their housing search should also contact the housing authority.

9. Will there be counseling provided to families who may have no experience renting from a private landlord or living in private rental property?

Absolutely. HUD will be working closely with housing counselors and relocation specialists to help ease the transition from public to HUD-assisted private rental housing to make certain residents understand the terms of their new lease agreements.

10. Will residents be offered housing counseling assistance to locate a new unit?

Yes. Housing authority staff and a contractor will be available for one-on-one meetings with residents to help them locate their next home.

11. What special consideration will be given to the special needs of elderly residents living in Elmwood and McBride?

We plan to do everything possible to assist elderly residents who may have lived in Cairo their entire lives. We are searching for other housing in Cairo where we may be able to relocate a small number of residents.

12. Does HUD realize the relocation will have a significant impact on the larger community?

We are keenly aware of the hardship this relocation will have on these households and indeed upon the very fabric of the surrounding community. HUD is hoping to implement this process in a manner that will allow these residents to locate alternative housing prior to the start of a new school year for their children.

13. Did you coordinate with the school district/city/state?

ACHA has had several meetings with local school district leaders as well as city, state and congressional representatives and will continue to engage these leaders before and during implementation of any relocation activities.

14. What’s the average monthly value of voucher nationwide?

$450

15. What are high and low markets for vouchers?

Examples of high-cost markets:

• City of Alameda Housing Authority (California) $1,446

• Greenwich Housing Authority (Connecticut) $1,365

Examples of low-cost markets:

• Maryville Housing Authority (Missouri) $192

• Housing Authority of the County of Wayne (Illinois) $188

16. Is there a limit to how much a relocation can cost?

There are prescribed limits under the U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines (Uniform Relocation Act) and within ACHA’s budget limitations. The exact amount of relocation assistance to be provided to each household will be determined when we have a better estimate of where families will elect to move.

17. What will happen to the buildings at Elmwood Place and McBride Place once residents have been moved?

The cost of restoring these two developments to any level of suitability and to protect them from future flood risks is estimated at approximately $41 million. Given the annual funding ACHA receives under HUD’s Capital Fund Program, it would take more than 75 years to address all the physical needs at Elmwood and McBride. Quite simply, these developments are beyond repair. Once these properties are fully vacant, HUD will facilitate their demolition.

18. Is HUD considering redevelopment (of) the properties?

HUD is exploring every opportunity to redevelop these properties but no decision has been made yet. Our top priority now is moving current residents to safer, healthier homes.

19. Why did it take HUD a year to announce this?

Since assuming day-to-day operational control of ACHA on Feb. 22, 2016, HUD embarked upon a top-to-bottom campaign to address the substantial backlog of unmet housing needs of the residents. HUD discovered overwhelming evidence of poor recordkeeping, deplorable living conditions and a staggering backlog of critical repairs. These declining conditions are most severe at the housing authority’s two largest family sites, Elmwood Place and McBride Place, where inadequate plumbing and heating, pest infestation and other home health and safety hazards went unchecked for many years. But shuttering affordable housing is always our last option and before reaching this decision to relocate the residents of these two developments, we wanted explore examined every possible option to avoid what has sadly become unavoidable.

20. How will HUD ensure that the Public Housing Authorities administering these Tenant Protection Vouchers will use their maximum authority to adjust the ‘payment standard’ of the local Fair Market Rent (up to 110 percent of FMR) so vouchers recipients can move to higher opportunity areas? Will HUD approve requests to set an even higher payment standard beyond 110 percent of FMR?

We understand the difficulty of moving an entire family to a new area where rents may be higher than those in Cairo. Local housing authorities adjust their payment standards based upon many factors. HUD will encourage the recipient housing authorities to work very closely with their new residents to ease their transition, including managing their authority to adjust FMRs to meet the needs of their incoming voucher holders.

21. What police or other security will be provided to the residents as the building are slowly vacated and families are left isolated while waiting their turn to relocate?

We plan to work with local authorities to ensure they are completely apprised of our relocation efforts to ensure policing and security where necessary.

22. What happens to families that owe back rent or are otherwise not current on their rent payments to the ACHA?

We are going to be as flexible as possible to help families relocate without debt to their new public housing authority.

23. Is there a maximum level of rental assistance HUD will offer residents of Elmwood and McBride?

Rental assistance is calculated based upon the "Fair Market Rent" which varies by metropolitan area and is further determined based upon the size of the family and the household’s income (tenants typically contribute 30 percent of their income to their rent). PHAs set their own payment standards within certain ranges based on their own “rent reasonableness” determinations for the area.

24. How much will this relocation effort cost?

Since Elmwood and McBride residents can move anywhere they wish throughout the country, the total cost of relocation cannot be calculated now.

25. If residents cannot find alternative housing in Cairo or Alexander Country, where will they live?

Using their new "tenant protection vouchers," and with the relocation assistance being provided, residents will have the option to move to neighboring public housing, private subsidized housing, or any housing that is suitable throughout the country.

26. When will my Tenant Protection Voucher become effective?

HUD anticipates that all vouchers will be effective this summer. The Housing Authority will provide a specific date in the coming weeks as information is finalized. Vouchers may be used to move anywhere in the country where there is an active voucher program. Residents who elect to leave Cairo will work with the public housing authority in their new jurisdiction once they move.

27. Will HUD also pay for relocation expenses (security deposit, moving costs, application fees)?

Yes. Reasonable relocation costs will be covered depending on the moving option you select for your family.

28. How much money will residents receive for relocation costs?

Elmwood and McBride residents will be offered several options, depending on their needs. Please contact the Housing Authority for more details about your options.

29. Will Elmwood and McBride residents be required pay for repairs to their current units?

No.

30. I haven’t received my voucher yet. What do I do?

The Housing Authority will provide notice and will going door-to-door in the Elmwood and McBride developments to inform residents about the next steps in this relocation process.

31. If I move to another community that is less affordable than Cairo, will my voucher cover the difference?

Yes.

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molly.parker@thesouthern.com

618-351-5079

On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​

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Molly Parker is general assignment and investigative projects reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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