NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On July 22, the city's Housing Authority Board of Commissioners approved an interlocal services agreement to provide inspection services to their counterpart in Wilmington, Delaware.
The Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) operates more than 17 public housing complexes with over 2,000 units, making them by far the largest of the four housing authorities in Delaware.
But NBHA workers are not going to be inspecting those units. Instead, they will be doing mostly "initial" inspections of properties that are joining the agency's Housing Choice Voucher Program, known more commonly as "Section 8."
WHA Executive Director Frederick Purnell told New Brunswick Today that NBHA workers will be conducting required inspections on "potential new units to put in the program.''
The WHA currently has more than 1,800 authorized voucher program units, according to Purnell.
His agency has a need for a lot of inspections of the privately-owned units being added to the Housing Choice Voucher Program, after opening up a waiting list for the first time since 2010.
"We opened our waiting list for the first time in 5 years and we took over 2,200 applications in less than eight hours," said Purnell, who added "a bunch of prospective landlords… want to participate in the program."
Asked why his agency chose the NBHA, Purnell said he felt it was "a good match" because the agency uses some of the same technology and procedures as the WHA.
"They run a very good voucher program," Purnell said, adding that his agency does not have the funding to hire any new inspectors on their own.
NBHA Executive Director John Clarke told his board that WHA will pay a flat rate of $27.50 for each unit of housing inspected by NBHA employees, and that they won't bother taking the long trip to Wilmington unless there are at least 18 units to be inspected.
The workers will drive NBHA vehicles to Wilmington, but the cost of gas and tolls will be picked up by the New Brunswick agency, not Wilmington.
Some parts of the Wilmington are more than 100 miles away from the NBHA's headquarters, according to Google Maps.
Purnell, who has been with WHA for 15 years, said he knows Clarke as a colleague. Both men serve on the Board of Directors at the Middle Atlantic Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (MARC NAHRO).
The agreement would run through the end of 2015, and is capped at $24,000.
"If it works then I'll go back and get it renewed," Purnell said.
Calling it "a big win for New Brunswick," NBHA board member Dale Caldwell said that the deal was "a testament to the quality of this housing authority."
The WHA is the third housing authority to adopt an interlocal agreement with the NBHA.
According to officials, the NBHA has provided management and staffing services to neighboring Franklin Township for the past nine years. That deal is valued at up to $70,000 per year.
At their prior meeting on June 24, the NBHA board approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Bayonne's Housing Authority to provide management and staffing services, as well as helping them with redevelopment work.
Bayonne is roughly 34 miles from New Brunswick, and the interlocal agreement could make the NBHA up to $30,000, according to Clarke.
Clarke told the NBHA board that, while the agency can handle the three contracts with other communities, that is about all that they could handle at this point.
But he told New Brunswick Today that these types of agreements are critical to the continued success of the NBHA.
"I think in the new world of financing, we're going to see a lot more of these interlocal agreements… They are basically how we're gonna survive."
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.