Friday, August 9, 2013

Our Own State of Torture

Trey Smith

As I have chronicled in this space, Della and I are urgently trying to find a place to live before our house is foreclosed upon and we are rendered homeless. We have applied for subsidized housing from as far south as Bandon, Oregon and as far east as Pullman, Washington. Even though all such apartment complexes advertise that they will respond to every application, we only have received ANY form of acknowledgment from 50 percent of the places we've applied to. We have tried to contact most of the ones who have not sent acknowledgments, but several never answer their phone!

In late May, it looked like our application to a HUD-contracted property in Westport (less than 40 miles from here) was going to be approved. We thought our move-in date would be no later than June 15. Everything was looking up...until we hit a snag. It had something to do with verification of the appraised value of our current home ($74,100). We supplied the verification they requested, but for unknown reasons, they said it wasn't sufficient. They said I had to obtain "official" documentation from the county assessor's office.

Of course, the information I gave them WAS from the assessor's official website. It didn't matter. So, I trooped up to the county office and they gave me a copy of the exact same document! I resubmitted it and the compliance officer for the apartment complex made noises that this "official" document still wasn't sufficient. I told them, "This is all we got. There is nothing else I can submit to satisfy whatever your regulations are."

After 2 weeks of hassling back and forth, they finally accepted this document. At that point, they had to reprocess the entire application. Yesterday, after 9 weeks of this agonizing wait, we were informed that our application had been approved and we were only a few days away from a move-in date. I was relieved...until the apartment manager told me what our rent would be. He said it would be around $550 per month.

"What?", I said. "I thought rent was pegged to 30% of our income?" It is, he replied. Then how is that with income of $1066, our rent is $550?

It was at this point that I found out that they had completely mangled our projected income. Somehow, they had figured out that our income would be around $1800 per month, though their math (see below) doesn't add up. If that figure was accurate, then a) we wouldn't be behind on our mortgage and b) we wouldn't need to move in the first place!

What has happened is that these people don't seem to understand how SSI payments work. The total amount a married couple can receive per month is $1066.00. When Della began receiving SSI in July, the amount I received automatically decreased. In their figuring, they had me still receiving the individual max of $710 plus Della receiving $533.00. On top of that, they factored in Della's $1019.00 from SSDI (which doesn't begin until October). When Della's $1019 kicks in, our SSI will drop to $67.00. Consequently, for the months of August and September, our income is $1066. Beginning in October, it will increase to $1086.

The upshot of all this is that our rent should be in the neighborhood of $316/month or around $234 LESS than their computation -- a significant difference for a family of limited means.

This creates yet another problem. While they sort of understood my explanation of all this, they say they need it documented. So, I had to call my local Social Security Administration office to ask if a document can be prepared to explain this information. I was told such a document will be prepared, but I won't know a) how well the situation is explained and b) if the complex will accept the document until it is mailed to me and then provided to them.

So, we seem to remain in this torturous state of limbo. When we started this odyssey, we were told it generally takes one to two weeks max. Well, those one or two weeks came and went. They have turned into 9 weeks and counting. We never dreamed that we would remain in this house through the majority of the summer. As of right now, it looks like the soonest we can finalize this deal is late next week or the week after. That, of course, is under the assumption that we don't hit yet another snag.

Heck, at the rate things have been going, I won't be surprised at all if we're still stranded here in South Bend come September or beyond!

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