Fund reduction could curtail housing efforts

The Warren County Housing Authority may have to stop issuing Section 8 vouchers, according to Executive Director Tonya Mitchell-Weston.

“We have to walk a really tight line,” she said after Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the authority’s board of directors. “Those who have vouchers and are looking for housing, we’re going to walk a real tight line to be able to pay for it.”

Funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is used by the authority with voucher holders to rent apartments from landlords.

The HUD funds are based on the units leased, and Mitchell-Weston said the focus had been to increase the number of leases. At the same time, the authority is rated by HUD on its ability to lease, one of just 13 indicators that includes the utilization of funds. Last year, the authority received 85 out of 100 point rating for not leasing every available opening.

The allocation for the leases is given after the fact, sometimes two to three months later. In that time, the authority could add four or five leases that then have no allocation and must be paid for using reserve funds.

The authority currently has 65 vouchers with 45 people on the program and at least 40 people on the waiting list, said Mitchell-Weston. The authority will honor vouchers that have been issued, she said.

Once the HUD reserves are depleted, the authority would be functioning on unrestricted revenue, and that’s not something Mitchell-Weston said she wants to use to fund programs.

“We may go ahead and close it until we find out what HUD is going to do, keeping in mind that we’re only getting 69 percent of the administration fees that are required to run the program,” she said, referring to reduction in funds due to sequestration.

As a result of sequestration cuts, HUD is funding programs at a percentage of former budget amounts. The public housing, Section 8 housing and Section 8 administration programs, are being funded at 81, 93 and 61 percent of former levels, respectively.

“With the reduced funding we’re still required to comply with all the requirements,” Mitchell-Weston said in March, after sequestration began. “They’re asking you to do more, but they’re not giving you the funding.”

Fortunately, the housing authority is small compared to larger programs. Mitchell-Weston said the Allegheny County authority recently let go 13 people from its Section 8 program and Venango County dissolved its entire housing authority and is now run by the county.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Tracey Kranak, authority financial director, said the final complaint with ADT TYCO, the security firm contracted to provide and maintain camera systems at one of the authority’s housing sites, will be filed at the end of the month.

For nearly a year, the security camera system at River View Terrace has been a constant source of problems, requiring maintenance from a company that was contracted by ADT TYCO to install the cameras.

The authority’s attorney filed a formal complaint against the company, which has still not responded to the authority.

“Do they know that we are taking legal action against them?,” asked Board President Mike Lewis.

“Yes, they do,” said Kranak.

“And they’re not worried about it?” he asked.

“Not at the moment” said Kranak. “In the scheme of things we’re not that big a dollar amount.”

“They gave us a product that didn’t work,” said Lewis.

“Exactly, and a product that their (ADT TYCO) own technicians couldn’t service,” said Kranak. “At the moment they have not responded whatsoever.”