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Bernalillo County running local housing program

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By Martin Salazar

The Bernalillo County Housing Authority is hosting a series of meetings this week to brief landlords on changes and regulations that must be adhered to in San Miguel County’s Section 8 program.

The program provides housing vouchers to qualified low-income residents in the county.

Deficiencies in San Miguel County’s Housing Authority prompted the County Commission and County Manager Les Montoya to contract with Bernalillo County to administer the program. Bernalillo County took over San Miguel County’s housing program nearly four months ago, and since then has been trying to rectify the problems and to educate both landlords and tenants participating in the program about requirements.

The first meetings with landlords were scheduled to have taken place on Tuesday. Two more meetings will take place today (Wednesday), one from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and the other from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the San Miguel County Commission chambers.

Two additional meetings are scheduled for Thursday, one from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and the other from 3:30 to 5 p.m., also at the Commission chambers, 500 W. National Ave.

“I have spoken with a lot of you about the changes happening with San Miguel County Housing Authority and our roll in the administration of their Section 8 program,” Christi Baker, the housing program manager for the Bernalillo County Housing Department wrote in a memo to local landlords. “Since taking over this program, I have learned lots about the inner-workings of the housing department and have determined it necessary to have a landlord orientation.”

Lawrence Sandoval, a spokesman for a local landlords group, said he is happy that Bernalillo County has taken over the San Miguel County Housing Authority.

He said that prior to that happening, the local county’s housing program wasn’t being run fairly. He said favoritism was occurring.

“A lot of stuff was going on that shouldn’t have been going on,” he said.

He said he and other landlords are eager to attend the planned meetings because they want to know what’s going on.

He said he showed up at the meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning but ended up having to leave because the presenter was running late.

Earlier this month, Montoya told the Commission he was pleased with how the arrangement with Bernalillo County was going. He told them that in the near future a decision would need to be made on whether to continue with Bernalillo County longterm.

“I’m looking at extending the contract with Bernalillo County for an extended period,” he said.

Betty Valdez, executive director for the Bernalillo County Housing Authority and acting manager of the San Miguel County Housing Authority, added that there were significant deficiencies when they took over the program.

Since then, she said, her staff has spoken to all 134 housing voucher recipients and to all of the landlords. She said they’re in the process of verifying income and are trying to collect missing lease agreements.

Among the other problems Valdez noted was some landlords who are getting paid too much and some tenants who have income they didn’t report.

She warned the Commission that Bernalillo County would be proposing termination for some on the housing vouchers because they are required to enforce the regulations.

Valdez told commissioners there have been significant improvements since they took over the program.

“I’d say the community has received us well,” she said. “It’s been going well.”

She also told the Commission that if Bernalillo County ends up managing the program for an extended period, she hopes to grow the program and tap into such things as housing vouchers for veterans.

San Miguel County is currently paying Bernalillo County about $4,000 a month to manage the program. Melinda Gonzales, San Miguel County’s finance supervisor, said that money is coming from budgeted salary positions for housing that are vacant.