Last updated: March 18. 2013 10:56PM - 3949 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com - (570) 991-6388

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The Luzerne County Housing Authority received 966 requests for Section 8 rental assistance during a recent 11-day window allowing residents to apply for the first time in two years.

Authority Executive Director David Fagula said new applicants should expect a lengthy wait for rental subsidy — in some cases years — because the federal government isn’t providing enough funding this year to cover people already in the program.

“The funding numbers don’t look good,” Fagula said.

The authority, which serves all county municipalities except for the four cities, is federally authorized to fill 1,115 Section 8 slots, but 81 aren’t being accessed by renters because of federal funding cuts, he said.

Rental subsidy for the 1,034 current participants will cost about $5.7 million this year, and the authority is projected to receive $5.5 million, Fagula said.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to call anyone new in for the rest of the year because we’re already spending more money than we’re expected to receive,” Fagula said.

The authority may be forced to eject some of the current participants later this year if nobody leaves the program, he said.

Other housing authorities throughout the country have been notifying Section 8 participants their rental subsidy might be cut off because of federal budget cuts.

Fagula said he opted to seek new applicants because residents had been banned from requesting service since March 2011, when 700 applications were received during a three-week enrollment period. He limited the latest enrollment to 11 days because he expected overwhelming response due to the economy.

Other housing authorities across the country also are experiencing service requests that drastically exceed funding, he said. An authority near Philadelphia received thousands of Section 8 applications during a one-day enrollment acceptance, he said.

The income eligibility limits range from $20,750 for a single person to $39,100 for a family of eight. Program participants receive vouchers for their landlords covering the difference between 30 percent of the tenants’ income and the fair market rent in the area.

Fagula also said his office also is struggling to cover mandated oversight of Section 8 with dwindling funding. The authority should receive about $600,000 for administration based on the number of participants but is allocated about $420,000, he said.

Four employees cover Section 8 oversight work previously handled by seven, he said. This work includes income verification, federal reports and inspections of rental units.

“Thanks goodness I have employees who are able to keep up with the work,” he said.

Housing authorities in the county’s four cities — Pittston, Nanticoke, Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre — also have Section 8 waiting lists.

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