Public input sought about affordable housing needs

By HASKEL BURNS,

Hattiesburg residents will have a second opportunity to give their recommendations and opinion regarding the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, a fair housing study that will soon be conducted by officials from the city and the Hattiesburg Public Housing Authority.

A public meeting will be held on the matter at 4 p.m. May 23 at C.E. Roy Community Center in Hattiesburg, during which time residents can give their input to help identify affordable housing needs that assist in shaping housing for the community. The analysis is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a condition for receiving federal housing and community development funds.

This year’s study is being conducted as part of a statewide collaboration that includes the Mississippi Home Corporation, Mississippi Development Authority, 50 local and regional Public Housing Authorities, and the cities of Biloxi, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Moss Point, and Pascagoula.

“Cities that participate with federal funds are partnering with the state to do one plan, where all of our issues are kind of consolidated into one larger plan,” said Andrew Ellard, director of Hattiesburg’s Urban Development Department. “So this will be our final public input meeting on what’s been crafted so far.”

The analysis is designed to identify and evaluate potential obstacles or impediments to an individual’s ability to choose their residence free from discrimination, and to recommend actions that address such impediments. The study addresses three main issues: an overview of laws, regulations and administrative policies and procedures; an assessment of how those laws affect the location, availability and accessibility of housing; and an assessment of conditions, both public and private, affecting fair housing choice.

“Fair housing touches on several different factors that kind of feed into housing – everything from lending practices in the area to the inventory or stock of affordable housing in the area,” Ellard said. “It even factors in the availability of accessible units for those who might have physical mobility challenges.

“It also focuses on demographics in the area and identifying certain racially- or ethnically-concentrated areas of poverty in our area, knowing that those might be areas of focus for affordable housing programs.”

After public input is gained from the meeting, that information – along with info from another recently-held meeting – will be included in a final report that will be made available to HUD in June.

“The state is kind of running as the lead with this,” Ellard said. “At some point, we will have to present a final document to (Hattiesburg) City Council, because we as the city of Hattiesburg also need our own Analysis of Impediments.

“We would adopt that plan here locally, and it would be taken into consideration as we’re doing our consolidated plans for the future use of our (Community Development Block Grant), HOME funds and other housing programs in the area.”