Rent increasing for hundreds of HUD housing tenants in Texoma - - No One Gets You Closer

Rent increasing for hundreds of HUD housing tenants in Texoma

ATOKA -- A new federal law is causing rent rates to increase for people who live in housing authorities. The Authorities operate on funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The increase will happen incrementally during the next several years. By law, rates can't go up by more than 35% per year. But for many, that's already enough to break their budget.

Jerene Chapman is retired. "My income is fixed," she said.

Because all her immediate family members have passed away, she says if it weren't for the Atoka Housing Authority, she'd already be in a nursing home.

But a new federal law may mean Chapman will have to find a new place to live sooner than she thought.

"I'll means that I'll cut down other places because I have no where to go except here," she said.

Right now, people on a flat rate plan at the Authority pay $125 per month for an efficiency apartment.

The new law bumps rent up to $338 during the next three years, a 270% increase.

Chapman lives in a two-bedroom. "Mine is $71 more," she said. "It'll go from $225 to $306 [the first year]."

Lisa Hardman is the executive director of the Atoka Housing Authority. She says 48 of the Authority's 121 tenants will be affected by the increase. She says most are senior citizens who feel like family.

"It hurts that we are having to do something that we wouldn't do for our family and there's nothing we can do about it," Hardman said.

Hardman says her office only recently found out about the new law and is now busy re-writing tenants policies, like all the other housing authorities nationwide.

But the hit for cities like Atoka will be particularly hard. Because there's an almost non-existent housing market, people who want to move have very few options.

Hardman says rent rates are based on fair market value and a medium household income of $42,500.

"I can't tell you any of my residents make anywhere near that," Hardman said.

Until now, she says she was able to make more rent deductions to fair market value pricing because the Authority doesn't offer the same amenities as other apartments. "Things like wall-to-wall-carpet, dishwasher, storage," she said.

None-the-less, rules are rules and Hardman says she has no choice but to follow them.

For residents, it'll mean stretching an already tight budget to try to make ends meet for as long as possible.

Hardman says they're reviewing other options for getting each tenant the cheapest rate, like one based solely on income.

They're also encouraging people affected to write members of Congress and demand a change.