In June 2014, members of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville's governing board, including Chair Brian Weinkle (center), listen during the meeting Wednesday on whether to move forward with overhauling the agency's funding and management. Matt Rose/Carolina Public Press
Click to find Carolina Public Press's ongoing coverage of housing issues in WNC.
Click to find Carolina Public Press’s ongoing coverage of housing issues in WNC.

Editor’s note: This story is part of our month-long investigative and in-depth series looking at housing issues facing Western North Carolina. For more housing-related reporting from Carolina Public Press, go here.

While more than 10,000 households in WNC rely on some form of public housing assistance, housing authorities don’t usually attract the same level of scrutiny as a local government, for example, so their workings are sometimes not well understood.

For one thing, housing authorities are independent agencies governed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, not the local or even state government. So, for example, while the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville’s name might lead one to think that it’s part of municipal government, it’s not. It simply refers to the geographic area it oversees.

While HUD places certain guidelines on their operations, in practice the authorities are independently-run, with their own boards, managers and somewhat differing rules and guidelines. A housing authority’s day-to-day operations are overseen by a CEO or executive director and the staff they choose. As a federal agency, tenants with issues can have the option of taking the issue to court.

Also, for many housing authorities, local governments do play some role in oversight through board appointments. An authority’s board is often appointed by a local official or combination of local governments (if it covers a wide area). HACA’s five-member board, for example, is appointed by the mayor of Asheville, but this type of relationship varies depending on the rules HUD approves for each authority.

Some housing authorities in WNC only oversee a small town, such as Murphy or Hot Springs. Others, like the Boone-based Northwest Regional Housing Authority, deal with a wide, multi-county area. There are 15 such agencies and nonprofits in WNC.

Who oversees Section 8?

Public housing developments are always overseen by a housing authority. However, the authority will often also oversee Section 8 vouchers as well. For example, both HACA and NWRHA oversee extensive Section 8 programs as well as owning and managing public housing developments. But Section 8 programs are sometimes overseen by local nonprofits instead. For example, in Henderson County, the Hendersonville Housing Authority oversees the area’s public housing while the nonprofit Western Carolina Community Alliance manages Section 8 vouchers in the same county.

While they have board authority over the developments they own and manage, as well as the vouchers they administer, housing authorities are also entirely or largely dependent on funds from HUD, so federal budget issues have an even larger impact than they do on local governments, who have their own tax revenue to turn to. The declining budget situation has, accordingly to multiple housing authority officials, led to major challenges that have left agencies throughout the country — and WNC — scrambling to adapt.

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David Forbes is a former contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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  1. Bought a small doublewide manufactured home. Paid $3,366. for the handicap shower unit, $984. for processing request for HUD approval and another several hundred for the change in the engineering drawing to reflect the new shower. Well, the shower arrived but the shower head is 5’3″ above the wheelchair seat.
    My husband is a disabled Vet. The slide rail shower feature and vertical grab bar was missing. They said I didn’t ask for those “options”. WHY/HOW DID HUD APPROVE THAT HANDICAP SHOWER WHEN A HANDICAPPED PERSON HAS TO STAND ON A LADDER TO REACH THE SHOWER HEAD?? What recourse do I have???

  2. Yes, it IS true that local governments have no oversight over the AVL housing authority who REF– USE to SHOW ANY RESPECT to the taxpayers who fund them by keeping their surrounding community areas
    completely TRASHED 24/7, while the HACA mgmnt sneers and laughs when complaints are made…

    AVL Greenworks Board Chairman is ON STAFF at HACA and even SHE (Samantha Bowers) does not
    even acknowledge the ongoing problem. WHY ? I now consider Greenworks as a SHAM of an organization, probably fed by taxpayers.

    AVL is completely blighted by MORE public housing here than ANY other city in NC !!! H O W did AVL get to that ? It’s what happens when the lieberal progressive democrackkks seeks to segregate the poor into public housing communities, a HUGE mistake they now realize.

    SO, WHEN will AVL City Council DEMAND respect from these people ??? Gene Bell, the HACA top dog
    and his crowd OUGHT to be SO EMBARRASSED that they would give up their jobs for NONperformance.

    PUBLIC HOUSING has RUINED Asheville, but ‘shhh’ don’t tell the TOURISTS !!!