AHA revises admissions, occupancy document

The Altoona Housing Authority has revised its admissions and continued occupancy policy document, incorporating changes that will put the document into compliance with Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations.

Authority officials have consulted other housing authorities about the matter prior to making the revisions — which should make the authority’s policies regarding admission and retention clearer to hearing officers and applicants, said Executive Director Cheryl Johns.

In the Clinton era, HUD called for housing authorities to enact a one-strike program, under which a significant criminal charge meant, “boom, you’re out,” Haberstroh said.

HUD now says authorities shouldn’t be so strict, he said.

But the Housing Authority has never slavishly followed a one-strike policy, according to Haberstroh.

Instead, it has relied on an examination of the underlying facts that led to charges and the perceived reliability of evidence encountered, he said.

It has also not necessarily waited until a conviction was reached before issuing a denial, according to Haberstroh.

The revised document calls for looking at each situation “case by case,” according to Johns.

“We still look at the whole picture,” she said.

It is coupled with a process that was put in place several years ago, which includes a review by the development manager and a final judgment from Johns, she said.

The policy

For admissions, the policy allows for considering evidence that includes police reports, witness statements and affidavits of probable cause, according to the new document.

It calls for considering whether an offense may have relevance to the safety and security of other residents; and it calls for considering the level of violence that may be involved; the length of time since a conviction occurred; the number of convictions in the applicant’s criminal history; whether the applicant is in addiction recovery; and what rehabilitation efforts may have been made.

The policy provides a range of time periods for postponing acceptance of a new application, depending on the nature of prior problematic behavior.

There is a lifetime denial when any household member has been convicted or has pled no contest to the manufacturing of meth or when the individual applicant is subject to lifetime registration under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act or has been convicted of crimes of indecency against a child. No waivers are permitted for these matters.

There is a 10-year denial if any member of the applicant household has been convicted or has pled no contest or guilty to a first degree felony.

But waivers can be considered.

There is also a 10-year denial for charges under the Violence Against Women Act, with no waivers permitted for mitigating circumstances.

There is a seven-year denial for convictions, no contest or guilty pleas for second degree felonies, with waivers possible.

There is a five-year denial for convictions, no contest or guilty pleas for third-degree felonies or first degree misdemeanors, with waivers permitted; and a five-year denial also for felony drug manufacture, delivery or possession, which aren’t graded by number.

There is a three-year denial for second- or third-degree misdemeanor convictions, no contests or guilty pleas, with waivers possible; for three or more convictions of unclassified misdemeanors and criminal summary offenses; for three or more offenses where an applicant was found not guilty or where charges were withdrawn, dating from the last charge — with the authority using its judgment on the gravity of such matters.

There is also a three-year denial for three or more alcohol offenses; misdemeanor drug offenses; and misrepresentation of critical application information.

The authority may also consider violence, illegal use of a drug and alcohol consumption patterns that could threaten the rights of others on the property in deciding whether to grant admission.

When an applicant claims mitigating circumstances, the authority needs to consider the “time, nature and extent” of applicants’ conduct.

If the mitigating circumstances relate to changes in disability, medical conditions and treatments, the authority must consult someone qualified to evaluate the claims.

Issues that could affect the authority’s decision include successful rehabilitation; a family’s participation in social service programs or counseling; and evidence of reform.

There was no need for a HUD review of the policy, Johns said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.


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