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--- Issued April 10, 2007

Erie City and County officials have officially – and emphatically -- backed the nationwide affordable housing campaign, “Housing America 2007.” They did so at a 10 a.m. press conference Tuesday, April 10, at the Erie County Courthouse.

Participating were Erie Mayor Joseph Sinnott, Erie County Executive Mark DiVecchio, Erie Housing Authority Executive Director John E. Horan, and Community Shelter Services Executive Director Kitty Cancilla. All pointed out that federal funding cuts for affordable housing have caused a dire situation.

Erie City and County officials have officially – and emphatically -- backed the nationwide affordable housing campaign, “Housing America 2007.” Shown above, just after the conference with news cameras on the floor behind them, are, from left, Erie Mayor Joseph Sinnott; John E. Horan, executive director of the Erie Housing Authority; and Erie County Executive Mark DiVecchio.

Housing America 2007 is a national campaign to educate and inform the public and decision-makers of the critical need to address the nation’s housing and community development concerns. The campaign aims to raise public consciousness of the critical role of housing and community development initiatives and the fundamental benefits the nation receives from these activities.

“It’s important we all stand together on this,” Sinnott said. “The cuts in funding for affordable housing handed down by the federal government have a major impact on our ability to serve the people who most need help and services.”

“ It is important to understand that we at the local level have limited resources to accomplish the greater ends of our society,” DiVecchio said. “Achieving larger goals, like accessible and affordable housing, requires the cooperation and assistance of the federal government. Unfortunately, over the last six years, the current administration in Washington has drastically cut funding to housing programs.”

Horan said that in his tenure of more than 30 years as executive director of the Erie Housing Authority, “This is the worst situation we have ever been in.” He noted that, “The United States Government’s financial support for affordable housing is going down at a precipitous rate. Since 2001, housing authorities nationwide have been hit with cuts that averaged 8.5% annually. For 2007, we at the Erie Housing Authority have been notified to expect a 17 percent reduction.” Horan is available at 452-2425 to arrange for news media interviews as to the seriousness of the situation.

According to one poll, nine out of ten Americans cite affordable housing as a high priority, and more than half believe housing policy with respect to the provision of affordable housing is on the wrong track. That poll was commissioned by a coalition of public, private and non-profit advocacy groups in conjunction with "Housing America 2007."

Speaking for the Erie Housing Authority, Horan pointed out that:
  • The Housing Authority of the City of Erie is helping fewer lower-income families, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities today than just one year ago. In April of 2006, the Authority was assisting 2,971 families through its various housing programs. Today, that number has dropped to 2,853. The reason—federal funding cuts.
  • Since 2001, federal cuts in the Authority’s annual operating subsidy have averaged 8.5% each year from their entitlement level based on a formula established by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • Since 2001, the Authority’s annual Capital Fund budget—also provided through HUD—has gone from $4.6 million to $3.6 million in 2007, a 22% decrease.
  • In the past year alone, the funding for the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program has been reduced by $650,000. This will result in 140 fewer families receiving housing assistance through the voucher program.
  • The Erie Housing Authority has nearly 3,000 families on its waiting lists. Due to the budget cuts, the Authority recently suspended the taking of new applications for its Section 8 Program.
“There are 3,300 housing authorities nationwide providing affordable housing for over 2 million Americans, 40% of whom are children. They are all suffering the same funding fate,” said Horan. “Systematic annual funding cuts to programs that have served the most needy among us for seven decades really constitutes an attempt to eliminate our country’s commitment to affordable housing. More than 70 years ago, this nation committed itself to providing a decent home and suitable living environment for all Americans. This promise has not been fully realized. With renewed public support and enlightened leadership, we need to reestablish this objective as a national priority.”

Horan said that unless the federal government is prompted to come through with the needed funding, cities such as Erie, across the country, will find themselves with many more homeless people on the streets.”

“We encourage our community to get with our federal legislators to let them know how much we need their support in getting this funding,” Sinnott said.

“We strongly urge the federal government to restore these funding cuts based on our country’s long commitment to making housing available to our citizens,” DiVecchio said. “Aiding our most vulnerable citizens is not only the right thing to do, but it saves money in the long run. Families that have stability in housing are able to direct their energies to other activities in their lives.”

Sinnott, DiVecchio, and Horan all urged the citizens of Erie to “let Congressman Phil English, Senators Arlen Specter and Robert Casey know that public housing and Section 8 housing provides safe, affordable housing for low-income families, many of whom are senior citizens or persons with disabilities. For over 10,000 citizens of Erie County, public and Section 8 housing is an indispensable service that they cannot afford to lose.”

Proclamations for the news conference, signed by DiVecchio and Sinnott, state that the Housing America 2007 has total support from both Erie City and Erie County governments.

It also has the support, according to the proclamation, of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Housing Assistance Council; Local Initiatives Support Corporation; Mortgage Bankers Association; National Association of Counties; National Association of Home Builders; National Association of Realtors; National Council of State Housing Agencies; National Housing Conference; National League of Cities; National Low-Income Housing Coalition; and U. S. Conference of Mayors.

The proclamations cite the following national statistics:

  • According to the “State of the Nation’s Housing” report, 15.6 million households now pay more than half of their income for housing. On any given night, there are nearly 755,000 homeless nationwide and up to 3.5 million persons who experience homelessness at some point throughout the year.
  • According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s “Out of Reach” report, minimum wage earners are unable to afford even a one-bedroom home anywhere in the country, and 88% of renters in cities live in areas where the fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental is not affordable, even with two minimum wage jobs.
  • According to the National Housing Conference, health care workers, and many other working professionals, are priced out of homeownership in the majority of U. S. metropolitan areas nationwide. According to the Housing Assistance Council, 1.7 million (6.3 percent) of rural homes were considered substandard in 2005.