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    Housing Solutions Lab
    Monday, March 20, 2023

    New London seeks return of surrendered housing vouchers

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    New London – The city’s housing authority has not had control of a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program in almost a decade.

    In 2013, the City of New London’s Housing Authority lost the ability to administer 114 vouchers and surrendered authority over its voucher program because it was operating inefficiently, according to the state Department of Housing.

    The program was transferred to the DOH, which currently administers more than 350 vouchers in the city.

    The vouchers are part of a federal program to assist families, the elderly and disabled with low incomes to afford housing. The voucher holders pay 30% of their monthly adjusted income for rent and utilities.

    In recent years, the housing authority and mayor have tried to regain control of a voucher program in city.

    Though it appears little or nothing would change for the city residents who have housing vouchers, the housing authority could potentially generate revenue if it efficiently managed the voucher program as well as improve its state properties and do more for families in the city.

    During an interview this past summer, Mayor Michael Passero said he doesn’t know why the vouchers were surrendered, and said he doesn’t think he’s ever received a good explanation as to why the city can’t get them back.

    “All I hear from both the professionals at (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) and the professionals at DOH is that it was the most incredibly unexplained, ridiculous thing to do,” Passero said, referring to the vouchers as “gold.”

    In July, Michael Santoro, director of the Office of Policy, Research and Housing Support for DOH, said the department was told by the housing authority in 2013 that it was losing money from the voucher program rather than making revenue.

    How much the authority was losing to run the program was not disclosed by HUD. A 2013 audit shows the authority began the process of returning the voucher program and lost $102,909 in HUD contributions and revenue for the year.

    A 2014 audit shows the authority’s revenue decreased by $612,793.

    Kolisha Kedron, the executive director of the authority, in December said she has been trying to get vouchers under the city’s authority since she started in 2018. Kedron said she has had conversations with DOH, HUD and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, but they have not been successful.

    “It’s something we won’t stop trying,” she said.

    Mismanagement of funds

    The city’s housing authority has a history of mismanaging funds.

    In 2009, a married couple who had served as Section 8 Coordinator and a maintenance worker for the authority were sentenced in federal court for scheming to steal $397,000 in rent subsidies.

    The same year, a federal audit revealed the housing authority did not properly administer almost $1 million in program funds. Executive Director Joseph Abrams was let go and Susan “Sue” Shontell took over.

    Santoro said the city’s housing authority in 2013, under Shontell’s tenure, gave control of its vouchers back to HUD.

    “If the New London Housing Authority had been more efficient they could’ve made a revenue,” Santoro said in a phone interview in July.

    The state housing department, acting as a public housing authority, oversees more than 7,800 vouchers in the state and is one of two state-wide administrators for HUD, the other being its agent, John D’Ameilia and Associates.

    The Thames Valley Council for Community Action is a sub-contractor for the state agencies and helps manage some vouchers in New London County.

    Reached by phone during the summer, Shontell denied that the vouchers were surrendered during her tenure as executive director.

    Why does it matter?

    Most public housing authorities manage vouchers in their respective cities, and HUD pays the authorities a fee for the costs of administering the program.

    If a housing authority manages the program well, it can generate more fees than it needs to run the program. The surplus might allow an authority to hire additional staff, improve properties or assist families.

    Jeffrey Arn, the executive director of Norwich’s housing authority, said the administration fee it receives covers some staffing and office costs. He said the average monthly fee for 2022 was about $42,618.

    Arn said HUD has cut administration fees over the years, running the program on less than before. The Norwich Housing Authority administers and manages 519 vouchers and is currently not taking any new applicants.

    Section 8 Program Coordinator Gisele Vance, who has been there for 24 years, and another full-time staff member run the Norwich program.


    New London’s housing authority has four properties ― Williams Park, which is federally subsidized, and three state properties: George Washington Carver, Gordon Court and Riozzi Court. All properties house people 62 or older and/or disabled.

    A large portion of New London’s state properties have affordable standard rents for qualifying tenants, such as $490 for a one-bedroom apartment. The units do not have voucher subsidies where tenants can pay 30% of their income, with the difference between that and the market value of the apartment paid to the authority with federal or state funds.

    Having a voucher program would give the city’s housing authority the possibility to “project-base,” or essentially transfer the subsidy from mobile Section 8 vouchers to particular units.

    Having a voucher program would “help residents at the state properties that have lower incomes and don’t quite meet the base rent. It would also mean more revenue to sustain and renovate buildings,” said Kedron, director of the New London authority. “You can’t take a loan or mortgage out if the revenue can’t pay it.”

    Santoro said federal regulations may allow a local housing authority to project-base a portion of its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, and it can do so with properties that it owns, under the proper circumstances.

    Kedron said the housing authority in 2021 was able to get a permanent contract for the State Residential Assistance Program, which allow tenants in certain units to pay 30% of their income. A total of 76 units across the authority’s state properties have this assistance.

    Kedron would also like to have a voucher program to assist families looking for low-income housing with two bedrooms or more. Right now she said all she can do is direct them to TVCCA.

    After the closure of the Thames River Apartments in 2018, the authority was left with no two- or three-bedroom apartments to accommodate families. The families from TRA were granted mobile Section 8 vouchers, and those that remained local are under the state’s management.

    Kedron said the authority is looking to regain control of the 350+ vouchers the state administers and/or administer new vouchers if it were to regain a voucher program.

    “We’re open to what the state can give us,” Kedron said. “If we can only secure project-based vouchers, I would definitely be happy and it would help residents and the authority find a new path forward, having an additional revenue stream.”

    Santoro said the city’s housing authority has asked for control of the vouchers pertaining to New London.

    “Has the federal government asked (us) to give it to them? No, because we haven’t offered it,” Santoro said.

    A spokesperson from HUD’s regional office in Boston said the transfers of budget authority for 114 Section 8 vouchers were made by Shontell and are final, a decision made by HUD headquarters.

    Kedron said she has never been told that directly that the transfers are final.


    Editor’s note: this version corrects Kolisha Kedron’s name.

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