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JCHA raising rent to encourage high-income tenants to move out

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 12 2013 05:01:21 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 12 2013 07:48:44 PM CDT

It's another round of rent hikes at the Johnson City Housing Authority -- officials tell News 5 they're hoping some residents will see this as an opportunity to find a home elsewhere.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -

It's another round of rent hikes at the Johnson City Housing Authority.      

Officials told News 5 Wednesday they're hoping some residents will see this as an opportunity to find a home elsewhere.

Sharon Mayo might hold a steady job at a local nursing home, but she said times are still tough. That's why she lives inside Johnson City Housing Authority's Keystone community. "I'm having a hard time paying what I'm paying now, and it's $425," said Mayo.

But starting September 1, that rate will jump to $716. "When it gets to the point where I have to start paying that higher rent, I will probably have to move out," Mayo told News 5.

Interestingly enough, we learned that's the idea -- at least for those who can afford to pay what's called the 'fair market value' for an apartment. “There are some people that have some pretty nice cars here and some of them have degrees and have higher incomes," said Richard McClain, the executive director of the Johnson City Housing Authority.

McClain said, at the request of the federal government, they are raising flat rate rents from 60 percent of fair market value (the rate set in August) to 80 percent.

McClain expects the hike will encourage about 50 people with higher incomes, some upwards of $50,000, to move out.

Public housing is intended for resident with low incomes, but we learned if your salary increases, you're not required to leave. That's why McClain said it's created something of a problem. "Raising the flat rate, that's a way we can encourage those people that have gained higher incomes that have degrees now to move on and give their unit up to someone who isn't as fortunate," said McClain.

Sharon Mayo simply hopes that with these changes, she'll still be able to make ends meet. "[I] just put it in God's hands and pray that something good comes of it," said Mayo.  

We've learned this flat rate rent hike will only impact about 20 percent of the housing authority's 756 units, meaning about 100 people will see an increase.

We're told most residents pay rent equal to 30 percent of their income, and flat-rate residents will have an option to change the way they pay that rent.