Friday, August 12, 2022

WHA awarded job-training grant, with goal of moving residents into market-rate housing

Wilmington Housing Authority will provide job training and placement opportunities for residents in Houston Moore and Creekwood South. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Wilmington Housing Authority)

WILMINGTON — Wilmington Housing Authority was selected as one of 12 awardees across the nation to administer the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Jobs Plus program. 

With $1.1 million from HUD in direct financing and $1.2 million donated as an in-kind services match from several local partners, WHA will work with $2.3 million to run the program over a three-year period. 

Related: Cape Fear Collective to purchase Driftwood, HUD monitoring sale

“It’s nothing like anything we’ve ever had before,” said Katrina Redmon, WHA’s CEO. “We’re going to try to spend this money very wisely and accommodate as many people as possible.”

Required to demonstrate at least a 25% match, WHA’s partners are pitching in 52%. It was the first time WHA applied for the program, Redmon explained. “To get one the first time you applied is wonderful,” she said. “Getting that large of a match is going to help us tremendously. I can’t thank our partners enough.”

The program is being extended to residents of Creekwood South and Houston Moore. 

StepUp Wilmington, a job coaching and placement organization, Cape Fear Community College, and Cape Fear District C, a talent-honing nonprofit funded by Cape Fear Collective, will help prepare residents who opt in to the program, “so we do not have to try to reinvent the wheel,” Redmon explained. 

Cape Fear Literacy Council will provide reading comprehension assistance for those who need it; Smart Start of New Hanover County and the Brigade Boys & Girls Club will offer childcare enrichment services; Feast Down East will offer local produce; PNC Bank will guide residents with financial training. 

Participants will be under a rent-lock program: As their earnings rise, the difference that normally would go toward increased housing payments as a calculation of their income will instead get rerouted into a savings account.  

WHA offers housing units and vouchers to a majority of extremely low-income families, earning 30% or less ($22,860 for a family of four) than the area median income, which is $53,400 for a single person, $76,200 for a four-person family. Through providing residents with the training necessary to secure a stable job and income, Redmon said the idea is to help them move into market-rate housing when they’re ready. 

“The whole hope of the Jobs Plus program is they don’t need us anymore,” Redmon said. “The goal is to graduate to the marketplace.”

WHA staff identified four areas with the most hiring demand in the region: customer service, healthcare, business services and construction. Through each academy, participants can earn certifications.

Redmon said WHA has run two similar initiatives on its own — a family self-sufficiency and a public housing self-sufficiency program — with similar goals. Through the Jobs Plus program, residents will get connected to a multitude of community resources. 

“This new Jobs Plus has more money than we’ll ever see between those two programs,” she said. “This actually makes that connection.”

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