Wednesday, June 06, 2012

GUEST COLUMN: "Important Changes to Improve the Metropolitan Housing Authority"

By State Rep. Louis Terhar

Recently I was proud to join Senator Bill Seitz and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel as we watched Governor John Kasich sign House Bill 408 into law. The moment was especially significant to me for numerous reasons. Not only was it my first bill signed into law (with my wife, Debe, also there), but the legislation will have a positive impact on the lives of many residents in Hamilton County.

The idea behind House Bill 408 was brought to my attention by local residents of several townships, who had concerns with the new rules being implemented by HUD in regard to Section 8 housing. Mainly, HUD is planning on authorizing a “scattered housing” initiative that will lead to more Section 8 housing being brought into the townships and municipalities outside of Cincinnati.

The concern I shared with the residents is that if the townships and municipalities are to be expected to manage this new initiative, then they should be adequately represented on the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) board in order to better ensure the new program runs as smoothly as possible.

Under HB 408, the composition of the board is changed so that the two members now appointed by the city manager will instead be appointed by the mayor of Cincinnati with approval of city council. With this change, all current members of the CMHA Board will be appointed by an elected official directly answerable to the voters.

HB 408 also adds two members to the CMHA Board. One of these members will be nominated by the Hamilton County Township Association, with the the Board of County Commissioners accepting or rejecting the nomination. The other member will be nominated by the Hamilton County Municipal League, although the person cannot be a resident of the district’s most populous city. This person will represent a city that is substantially impacted by public housing and must also be accepted or rejected by the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners.

I am proud to note that House Bill 408 was supported by the majority of the Hamilton County Commissioners, the Hamilton County Municipal League and the Hamilton County Township Association. It also passed the House with bipartisan support.

It is my belief that HB 408 will help develop a consolidated, coordinated subsidized housing plan for all of Hamilton County so that we treat everyone equally and everyone has a voice. Further, we now have a face to HUD that says this is what our county needs.

I appreciate all of the public input on the bill, and I look forward to continuing the process of making the CMHA Board as transparent and efficient as possible.