LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Setting the record straight at Dover Housing Authority

I am writing in response to an article published in the Delaware State News Nov. 1, 2016, entitled “Dover Housing Authority chief to step down.”

For the past 23 years, I have served the Dover Housing Authority community, residents and my staff with a deep passion, dedication and commitment. The DHA and I pride ourselves in being a housing provider that is more than just a public housing landlord or Housing Choice Voucher Program administrator. Since the 1990s, we have offered programs and services that empower our residents to achieve economic self-sufficiency.

A large number of our residents have met their self-sufficiency goals and have moved to permanent housing, and yes, even homeownership; but we also have a number of residents who have met their self-sufficiency goals, yet, have chosen to remain with us. Federal regulations mandate when a resident can be considered a “graduate” of our housing programs. Until those residents meet those requirements and they must move on to other housing, they will remain our residents.

Regarding the above-referenced article, I consider the statements of Roy Sudler and Clay Hammond as opinion. Despite having a complaint system which was implemented in July 2015 and which was created and agreed upon by the mayor, Mr. Sudler, other city of Dover staff, and the DHA, neither the DHA nor I were afforded an opportunity to respond to the complaints.

The allegations from program participants cited by Mr. Sudler have been received by my office, and each one has been researched. Of the 11 complaint forms recently submitted, four were previously addressed by DHA. Our response was submitted to the mayor, Mr. Sudler, members of City Council, members of city of Dover staff, and the DHA Board of Commissioners on July 8, 2016. The issues were resolved.

Unfortunately, some of the decisions may not have been in favor of the resident or applicant. The remaining seven complaints dealt with instances in which an applicant declined a housing unit offered, a resident or program participant was in violation of federal income-reporting policies, a program participant did not meet the requirements of his/her Contract of Participation, and other situations in which residents and/or applicants were not in compliance with federal regulations, the Dwelling Rental Lease, and program policies.

The staff of DHA does extensive research to ensure we are applying our policies and federal regulations fairly. We understand that the decisions we make will affect the lives of our residents and applicants.

Regarding the allegation of conflict of interest with the deputy director, this has been addressed with the Board of Commissioners and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Mincey has been vetted by our legal counsel, and it has been determined that the issue of conflict of interest does not exist, a determination accepted and approved by the board and HUD. Let’s not form an opinion on the integrity of a person based on family relationship, but look instead at his qualifications, education, skills, knowledge and work ethic.

As for the need for the Dover Housing Authority to “… reinvent itself and its purpose … ,” we must first understand who Dover Housing Authority is, what is the mission under which we operate, whom are we serving, and, more importantly, what is our obligation to our federal funding source, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

There were several inconsistencies in the article — we do not operate under the Delaware State Housing Authority umbrella; DHA operates a public housing program, as well as a (Section 8) Housing Choice Voucher Program; we have offered services and programs to our residents for over 20 years; we have a large number of residents who are working, tax-paying, contributing citizens of our community; lastly, we operate under several mandates and regulations — federal regulations, IRS regulations, our policies and procedures, our Dwelling Rental Lease, the Delaware Landlord Tenant Code, and local building codes and ordinances. We do not make decisions based on whim or favoritism; we make informed decisions that can be supported by our many governing documents.

There were several more comments made by Mr. Sudler and Mr. Hammond that I feel were unfounded, and definitely, not researched. One comment was uncalled-for and not worthy of a response: “I’m very concerned about this situation because quite often, other people have a perception they want to continue to rely on these programs and leech off taxpayers and not improve their situation.” Others would have been a non-issue had they reached out to the Dover Housing Authority for more information. Are Mr. Sudler and Mr. Hammond even aware of the programs and services we offer under our Family Self-Sufficiency Program umbrella?

Why not ask me about our Employment and Training Program, our after-school program, our continuing education and soft-skills programs, and the myriad of other programs and services we offer our residents to enrich and better their lives?

Let’s discuss DHA’s involvement in the Challenge to End Veterans’ Homelessness; DHA’s commitment to enriching the lives of our youth through our partnerships with the Dover Police PAL program, the FBI, Telamon Head Start, and the MLK group; our never-ending commitment to improving the lives of our residents through our many Food For Thought and community events; and our involvement and support of the revitalization of downtown Dover.

The Dover Housing Authority reinvents itself continuously. We reinvent ourselves to comply with the ever-changing federal regulations and mandates of the federal government. We reinvent ourselves to meet the changing needs of our residents. Through all the changes, we will continue our mission, and we will continue to do so without fanfare or the need to promote ourselves because WE know we are serving our purpose, and so do the families we serve.

Thank you for your time.

Ami Sebastian-Hauer
Executive Director, Dover Housing Authority

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