Rent increase, utility payment changes set for Augusta's public housing residents

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - Changes coming to Augusta public housing residents could mean some will have to tighten their belts.


Octavia Boyd-Wise, who resides in Peabody Apartments, is one of those who are concerned.

"First I got angry. I dare you go up on the rent," she thought. "Then when I started thinking about it and read the letter I received around the 19th of this month, it never really explains why they're going up on the rent."

The letter sent to Boyd-Wise and the rest of the residents in public housing is causing major concern. The sixth item reads "minimum rent increase from $25 to $50. It's a slight change for some, but Boyd-Wise said for her it means rearranging her budget.

"I cannot spend as much at the grocery store. That means that all these car repairs that I've been going through for the last month will have to be put on hold longer than I would like for them to be. My daughter's a single parent. I try to help with my granddaughter all the time," she said adding that there are several maintenance issues at her high rise that make her question raising rent.

While the average American pulls 40 hours a week, this senior citizen tells us she works 60 hours every two weeks at Habitat for Humanity and needs every dime she earns. She said others in public housing have similar situations, if not worse, such as spending money they don't have because the location of the high rise is in a food desert.

"Some people have to pay just to get to and from the grocery store. Our closest grocery is North Augusta Kroger or North Augusta Publix, which is still a little pricey," Boyd-Wise said.

NewsChannel 6 took her concerns to Augusta Housing Authority, where Director of Management Chantra Williams explained what is going on with the letter.

"If your rent is between $25 and $50 your rent will go up to a minimum of $50. If your rent is already over $50, it does not change," she said adding that the lowest rent is $25.

Williams said the office is going up because federal dollars are going down. HUD is only sending about 80 percent of what it did in the past. The change actually does not impact a lot of people though because it's income based.

"Most seniors are not affected at all," she explained. "Because they already pay a higher rent any way based on their income."

Another eye opener in the letter is changes to utility payments.  It reads:

The option for a revised utility reimbursement payment scheduled for amounts $15 or less.

"Right now we send utility checks out every month if you get a utility allowance. If it's under $15, we have not decided to adopt that yet, we can send it out every three months. Some people don't cash their checks every month," Williams said adding that many residents pay $3 for utility payments.

Boyd-Wise wrote a letter she plans to submit to AHA. Everyone has until July 14 to do the same. New changes go in effect September 1.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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