Public housing legislation heads to House

A measure that would help the state’s 107 housing authorities recoup millions in unpaid rent and property damages each year was approved in the Senate.  Senate Bill 1019, by Sen. Earl Garrison, would allow public housing authorities to file claims with the Oklahoma Tax Commission to garnish former tenants’ personal income tax refunds for any monies owed for rent or property damage.

This bill provides housing authorities an avenue to recoup financial losses caused by irresponsible tenants,” said Garrison, D-Muskogee.  “Rent in public housing is based on one’s income so there’s no reason why these individuals can’t afford to pay their bill each month.  By skipping out on their bills, they’re simply abusing the system and this bill will hold them more accountable.”

State agencies, municipal courts and district courts currently collect debts, unpaid fines and costs of final judgments of at least $50 from personal income tax refunds through the Warrant Intercept Program.  

The Tulsa Housing Authority (THA) currently has just over $5.5 million in outstanding debt due to unpaid rent and property damage, while the Oklahoma City Housing Authority (OCHA) accrued a combined outstanding debt of $575,000 during 2010 and 2011.  

The THA was allowed to participate in the Warrant Intercept Program in 2007 for eleven months and was able to recover $470,000.  THA and OCHA officials believe that by participating in the Warrant Intercept program, they’ll be able to recoup most of their losses.  

SB 1019 will next be heard in the House.