AHA Voucher Recipient Faces Eviction due to Foreclosure on Home

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(APN) ATLANTA — Tamika Brewer, a disabled Atlanta Section 8 voucher recipient, received a letter that she is about to be evicted because her home is in foreclosure, even though she says she pays her rent on time each month to her property manager.

“Why would they [AHA] wait this long to inform me when it wasn’t my situation?” Brewer asked Atlanta Progressive News.

“NOTICE OF FORECLOSURE… Dear Homeowner/occupant, The above property has been sold at the foreclosure sale. The new owner (the mortgage company) has requested that I inform you of their demand for possession of the property. They have already started the EVICTION process… DON’T WAIT FOR THE SHERIFF’S LOCKOUT DATE! CALL ME TODAY!” JR Johnson, Foreclosure Banker with Alpine Properties, wrote Ms. Brewer on July 16, 2007.

“I think they [AHA] should have let me know, and tried to assist me with subsidized housing way before now, by me being disabled and all and under doctor’s care,” Brewer said.

“It’s like they’re saying kiss my ass, Ms. Brewer. But there’s nothing I can do about it because I’m not up there with the big boys.”

“They ask me to comply with all their rules and regulations. I’m holding up my end of the bargain but they’re not holding up theirs,” Brewer said.

Instead, Brewer doesn’t know where she’s going to go and is having trouble eating due to the stress of worrying about becoming homeless.

The landlord for Brewer’s house on Santa Barbara Drive in northwest Atlanta failed to make the mortgage payments, even though she may have been receiving the rent from Brewer, JR Johnson of Alpine Properties told Atlanta Progressive News in an interview.

Brewer faces eviction by the middle to late August, Johnson said.

Landlord Carol Ashley did not return two voicemails seeking comment. Property manager Ashmore Property Acquisitions and Development (APAD Group) also did not return two phonecalls seeking comment, including one message left with a receptionist Monday.

Brewer learned of a possible foreclosure when someone with the bank visited her in June, she said. However, Brewer called APAD Group to see if it was true and they advised her to keep paying her rent, Brewer said.

Ms. Brewer went to the Atlanta Housing Authority office on July 17, 2007, the day after she received the letter, and was told by a receptionist to leave a copy of the letter in a drop box, Brewer told APN. Brewer did this the same day, she said, but has not heard any reply from AHA at all.

It is not clear whether AHA will help Ms. Brewer find a new place to live or whether they will honor her Section 8 voucher at a new site, but Brewer said she plans to go again to AHA’s office.

Diane Wright, President of the Jurisdiction-Wide Resident Advisory Board, said she does not believe AHA will assist Ms. Brewer because she knows of at least one tenant in a similar situation whose voucher was terminated by AHA. Moreover, Wright says she believes AHA is running out of Section 8 funding and is trying to get as many voucher recipients off the rolls as possible.

In any event, the situation shows how the market-based voucher program is less of a safety net than a spider web.

While AHA portrays vouchers as a better solution than public housing, several problems have already emerged with the voucher program: uncertainty of finding a landlord who will accept the voucher in Atlanta; underfunding of HUD-mandated utility bill subsidies; some vouchers being tied to a particular site; recertification issues; and uncertainty of future funding for the voucher program, to name a few. APN has already reported on most of these.

The foreclosure issue is yet another problem that awaits AHA’s voucher recipients.

“There’s definitely something wrong and unfortunate due to mortgage fraud. It’s a very familiar scene,” Johnson said. “Tamika is the victim. The bank is the co-victim. The owners–the mortgage company–they want the amount they’re owed, tens of thousands of dollars. The bank hasn’t had a payment in at least 4 to 6 months. We’re trying to make the best out of a horrible situation. It’s horrible for us. It’s horrible for the tenant.”

Alpine Properties is “handling the foreclosure for the bank that was not paid,” Johnson said.

“We have a lot of fraud in the Metro area, people buying properties and never making any payments,” JR Johnson’s brother and business partner, Leon Johnson, said.

In addition to raising questions about how AHA will respond to this situation, the other issue is, what screening process is AHA using to make sure the landlord partners in its Section 8 voucher program are legitimate?

According to a letter obtained by Atlanta Progressive News, AHA asked Tamika Brewer to attend a recertification meeting on June 22, 2007. In order to requalify for assistance, Brewer was asked to present her payment stubs or unemployment verification, welfare letters, notarized verification of childcare if applicable, verification of medical expenses, bank statements, and social security cards, among other documents.

Advocates and attorneys have argued the recertification process for Section 8 tenants presents an extra barrier which leads to more voucher terminations. “Failure to comply with the re-examination requirements will result in the termination of your Housing Choice Programs Assistance,” Fred Stevens, Homeownership Coordinator for AHA, wrote to Brewer on June 11, 2007.

Yet, what recertification process is required for landlords? Apparently, AHA wasn’t even checking to make sure the mortgage was in good standing, even as they were mailing voucher payments to the landlord.

“It’s something they don’t keep up with,” Johnson said.

In fact, the evidence suggests landlord Carol Ashley was accepting both the rental payments from Ms. Brewer in addition to the voucher subsidy for AHA. “I paid the $216 a month, and they sent to her $750,” Brewer said of AHA. In other words, unless they were aware this was going on, AHA may also have been taken advantage of.

Was Alpine Properties or the mortgage company aware there’s a Section 8 tenant living in the home they were in the process of foreclosing?

“The bank doesn’t even know of a tenant. She [Brewer] told me on the first day I went out there that she was on Section 8,” JR Johnson said. “We have no initial knowledge of what’s going on.”

What would the banks do after learning about the Section 8 tenant who had been paying their rent?

“In this case, they don’t do anything [except proceed with eviction]. As far as they’re concerned, they have no knowledge of who’s on the property. The only know they don’t have their money,” Johnson said.

“She may have a claim against the landlord that she was not given proper notice,” Johnson said of Brewer. Johnson said he believed it was the landlord’s responsibility to notify Brewer if she was falling behind on the mortgage payments. “But then she might not pay her rent,” Johnson speculated.

Johnson also offered to have his company assist Brewer in finding a new apartment in the area but advised her to make sure AHA will continue to honor the Section 8 voucher.

Johnson said she wants to stay in the area because it’s convenient for her to get to her doctors, her church, and her voting location.

Johnson also offered $950 to Brewer as an incentive for her to agree to move out on her own. Of course, this won’t make up for a potentially lost Section 8 voucher. “They do it because it’s easier to have her move out than have a cleaning crew come in.”

Alpine Properties at this point has no communication with the landlord or with AHA, Johnson said.

“The mortgage company… they have never once attempted to contact the landlord. The climate we’re in right now, an excessive amount of properties are for sale. Banks do not want to foreclose. By the time it gets to this stage, they don’t know what to do.”

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor of The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndicaton policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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