No smoking policy on housing authority horizon

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – At the Thursday, March 15, meeting of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority (BRHA), Executive Director Traver Aiken addressed the forthcoming no smoking policy, which is scheduled to take effect for residents August 1, 2018.

The policy is a result of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rule published Dec. 5, 2016, and made effective Feb. 3, 2017, that states all public housing agencies nationwide must have a no smoking policy in place by the end of an 18-month implementation period (July 30, 2018).

According to Aiken, the policy bans all lit tobacco products within residences or other buildings on housing authority property. Additionally, once the policy takes effect, residents who smoke will have to do so outside and at least 25 feet from any entrance to a residence. The policy does not ban smokeless tobacco or vaping products.

“I’ve generated the policy. The policy has been sent out for the review for residents’ comments period,” Aiken said.

Also, Aiken told the authority he has already been addressing residents’ input, comments and concerns on the coming policy and will continue to do so through June. One common concern from residents, Aiken said, was the application of the policy to visitors and guests to a residence. To this, Aiken explained the head of household will be held directly responsible for any violations from all visitors or other members of the household.

Though Aiken in prior meetings has expressed concern that the no smoking policy could create a degree of friction between the housing authority and residents or even between residents themselves, the director did mention Thursday that he has received some positive response from residents regarding the policy.

“Most residents have been positively receptive to (the policy),” Aiken told BRHA members. “They’re kind of like, ‘This gives me a reason to quit smoking. I’ve been wanting to quit smoking forever.'”

Aiken also reported to the BRHA he had been communicating with representatives from the American Cancer Society in an effort to establish an onsite cancer pre-screening event in the near future for residents at little to no cost.

Earlier in the meeting, the BRHA approved the nomination of current resident board member Ellan Johnson to continue to serve on the BRHA. Aiken explained Johnson’s appointment depends on official approval and ratification from Mayor Donna Whitener. Once appointed by Whitener, Johnson’s term will span from April 2018 through March 2019.

“We love to have you again Mrs. Johnson,” Aiken said to Johnson. “We appreciate your willingness to participate.”

The authority also approved a $60,000 transfer of funds from the BRHA operating checking account to a money market reserve account. Aiken explained the purpose of the transfer was to receive a higher interest rate in order to build up further reserve funds.

CLARIFICATION: Last month, it was reported Aiken expressed concern over legislation currently on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly that could eliminate a low-income housing tax credit that benefits housing authorities across the state by giving a tax credit to contracted companies developing new units for housing authorities. That legislation is Georgia HB 851, which is a Bill to be entitled an Act to amend Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. If passed, the legislation could end the tax credit by 2023. Georgia HR 798, on the other hand, was a Resolution adopted by the General Assembly in March 2017 to create a House Study Committee to examine the effectiveness of the low-income tax credit.

 

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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Aiken discusses potential state tax credit, federal funding changes to housing authority

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Traver Aiken, executive director of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority (BRHA), expressed his concern over Georgia HR 798 to authority members Thursday, Feb. 15, at the authority’s monthly meeting.

The resolution adopted by the Georgia General Assembly March 30, 2017, created a House Study Committee on the effectiveness of a low-income housing tax credit, which benefits the BRHA and other housing authorities across the state by giving a tax credit to contracted companies developing new units for housing authorities. Aiken stated he feared the study could result in the tax credit being eliminated at some point in the future.

Aiken explained he had attended a legislative day for housing authorities in Atlanta Thursday, Feb. 8, and had the chance to speak with Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston. Aiken also told authority board members he had been informed at the Atlanta conference that legislation had already been introduced to eliminate the 9 percent tax credit by 2020.

“If they get rid of that, then there is no possible way we could ever build (new) units,” Aiken explained.

“I specifically went on the floor to talk to (Speaker) David Ralston about this, and I said, ‘I need you to look at this bill please. I’m from Blue Ridge, and this is going to kill us up there if we cannot provide any more housing units for our low-income individuals,'” Aiken continued.

Mentioning another area of concern for housing authorities, Aiken also cited the proposed 2019 federal budget, which proposes an elimination of Capital Fund through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Reading into (the proposed 2019 federal budget), we’re going to have some problems if they pass that,” Aiken said. “The language in there completely does away with the Capital Fund program, which would completely do away with our ability to (renovate) and update anything in these units. Ever.”

He also explained the proposed budget would negatively affect the housing authority’s operating and day-to-day maintenance abilities as housing authorities rely on Capital Fund money to maintain and modernize existing housing units.

“So, it could be scary here in the next couple of months just to see how all of this plays out,” Aiken stated.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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