Linden board holds Dec. 1 eviction date

Published 11:28 pm Monday, November 24, 2008

The Linden Housing Authority Board decided Monday to uphold its decision to evict eight families from the Linden housing units by Dec. 1.

Approximately 10 residents who face eviction pleaded the case before the board that they should be allowed more time to meet a community service requirement. The families have not complied with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s requirement for residents to spend eight hours a month performing some kind of community service.

“We have taken each case and looked at them individually, but we still find that they are in non-compliance,” said board chairman Larry Schroeder after meeting the residents behind closed doors. “We have to enforce all regulations that HUD passes down, not just the easy ones. This is not pleasant, not easy and certainly not the outcome we would have desired.”

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Audrey Haskin of Congressman Artur Davis’s office met with the board on the residents’ behalf and tried to work out a solution.

“There is always a need to respect and uphold the law,” said a statement from Davis’ office about the issue on Friday. “At the same time, many of the affected tenants are elderly, and many others are very young children. We believe the optimal outcome would be a negotiation amongst all parties involved to provide for one of the following options: the first is extension of tenants’ leases to allow them to secure other living arrangements before final eviction from their current homes; and the second option would allow the tenants a window of time to meet their community service requirements for the year retroactively.”

The Linden Housing Authority has 50 household units.

“HUD sent us a letter last year saying we had several residents who were not complying with guidelines,” said Tim Speed, the executive director for the Linden Housing Authority. He stated the contract each tenant signs when they move in has always included a clause that requires residents between the ages of 18 to 62 who are not employed, not full-time students, not elderly and not disabled to give eight hours of their time towards community service as a way of contributing back to the community for the services they are receiving.

“After we were notified in October 2007, we began informing the residents,” Speed said. “We sent letters every other month reminding them they needed to complete the hours and have it documented to comply with HUD regulations. We also included a list of places where they could volunteer to complete their hours.”

Four out of 15 tenants did begin to comply, and two moved. A third tenant moved after eviction notices went out.

The Linden Housing Authority board, which is appointed by the city’s mayor and includes a housing tenant, voted last month to evict those who had not yet complied. The notices went out Nov. 11 giving the eight households 14 days to leave. The board later extended it to Dec. 1.

“We have honestly and faithfully taken all things into consideration and made an honest decision we believe to be fair,” said Schroeder.

Some of the residents cited medical reasons for not complying with the community service requirement, but according to Schroeder, not one of the residents being evicted has produced any documentation such a physician’s note backing their claims and excusing them from meeting the requirement.

“This was not an easy choice to make,” Schroeder said, “but, if we do not uphold and enforce the HUD guidelines, it would not be fair to those other tenants who are meeting the regulations.”

“We will now try to work towards finding them homes to relocate to,” said Haskins as she left the meeting.