--- November 10, 2014

Juan and Sonia Irizarry,  the first Public Housing Family Self-Sufficiency Program (PHFSS) graduates), were honored for their accomplishments on Monday, November 10, at a graduation ceremony at the Erie Housing Authority’s Administration office.

Darrin Kinander, Section 8 Coordinator and Tenant Selection Supervisior; Juan Irizarry, Sonia Irizarry; John E. Horan;  Lynette Burkhart, assistant Section 8 and Tenant Selection Coordinator;and Patreece Johnson, PHFSS caseworker.

Not only are they the program’s first graduates, but thanks to the PHFSS Program, they are first-time homeowners.

PHFSS, established for public housing residents,  parallels the Housing Authority’s successful Section 8 Family Self-Sufficiency Program that helps Section 8 participants achieve financial independence.

Under both programs, the Housing Authority establishes an escrow/savings account based on the rental subsidy the participants receive from the Housing Authority. As the participants move toward economic self-sufficiency through employment and better-paying jobs, their share of the rent increases. The Housing Authority matches these increases with like contributions to an interest-bearing savings account for the family.

When the family is self-sufficient – no longer receiving welfare, housing or other government subsidies – the money in the savings account officially becomes theirs. The savings account can be used to purchase a house, for education, and for debt reduction.

The main qualifications for applicants: they must want to work; they must seek the education they need; they must have a good rent payment history in public housing; and most importantly, they must want to become self-sufficient and independent of government subsidies.

The couple was approved for the program in March, with the following goals:

  • Maintain household income in order to afford their own housing;
  •  Complete "Money Works for You Program" at GECAC – Sonia did complete this program and received $500.00 from GECAC.  She saved $500 on her own,  spending $1,000 on a new washer and dryer for their new house;
  •  Graduate from Saint Martin’s Center’s Homeownership Assistance Program.  Juan and Sonia completed this program together and received a certificate of completion;
  •  Be pre-approved through Northwest Savings Bank.  They did this, and received $5,000 in down payment assistance from a special program called the First Front Door Program. This program is an income-eligible program through Northwest Savings Bank.

“Juan and Sonia met all the program criteria and more,” said John E. Horan, HACE executive director.  “We are very proud of them. They set a wonderful example for all the others in the program and for all the residents of Erie's public housing.”