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--- Issued August 3, 2010

The Housing Authority of the City of Erie has received a near perfect “Certificate of Superior Accomplishment” – a high performer award -- from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the way it runs the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.

HUD has completed its yearly Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) review and has determined that the Housing Authority of the City of Erie deserves that honor for 2009.

The high performer award is for the Erie Housing Authority’s fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2009. Housing authorities nationwide must score at least 90 out of 100 percentage points to achieve the designation.

The Erie Housing Authority scored 142 of 145 point this year to reach the 99th percentile.

The last time the Authority was named a top performer by HUD was in 2007.

“It is a big accomplishment for an authority to receive this award,” said John E. Horan, executive director of the authority. “This is a reflection of the hard work of the Housing Authority’s Section 8 staff members who are responsible for the day-to day operation of the program.”

“Ninety-nine out of 100 percentage points is about as good as it gets,” he said.

The Section 8 Program allows people to rent in the private sector through financial assistance from the federal government from funds passed through the Erie Housing Authority. Families thus are able to receive housing assistance from the Authority to live in private sector homes throughout the city.

Horan said the award was also the result of an aggressive new strategy for raising its Section 8 scores as kept by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the HACE Section 8 program.

For 2009, the Authority:

· Spent all the federal funds allocated by HUD for the HACE Section 8 program. “We were more aggressive in filling openings in the program,” Horan said. We really pushed to replace the residents who left the program.”
· Used maps at orientation meetings to show families the location of new, better housing – including housing outside of low-income neighborhoods.
· Provided information on services and facilities available in each Erie neighborhood .
· Included information on school in all neighborhoods – “We had lists of every elementary school, middle school, and high school so families with Section 8 Vouchers could factor that information into where they wanted to live, Horan said.

“Our efforts seem to have paid off,” Horan said.

The Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) is a “report card” for public housing agencies (PHAs) who administer the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8). It measures their performance in 14 key areas to assess whether PHAs help eligible families to afford decent rental units at a reasonable subsidy cost as intended by Federal housing legislation. The 14 key indicators of PHA, in which HACE scored high points for performance are:
· Proper selection of applicants from the housing choice voucher waiting list
· Sound determination of reasonable rent for each unit leased
· Establishment of payment standards within the required range of the HUD fair market rent
· Accurate verification of family income
· Timely annual reexaminations of family income
· Correct calculation of the tenant share of the rent and the housing assistance payment
· Maintenance of a current schedule of allowances for tenant utility costs
· Ensure units comply with the housing quality standards before families enter into leases and PHAs enter into housing assistance contracts
· Timely annual housing quality inspections
· Performing of quality control inspections to ensure housing quality
· Ensure that landlords and tenants promptly correct housing quality deficiencies
· Ensure that all available housing choice vouchers are used
· Expand housing choice outside areas of poverty or minority concentration
· Enroll families in the family self-sufficiency program as required and help families achieve increases in employment income.

In 2009, HACE placed 125 new families in Section 8 housing, and now has a total of 996 families participating in the Section 8 program. Families pay 30% of their income for rent and utilities. The Authority pays the difference in the cost of the rent directly to the landlord. Over 400 private landlords have apartments and houses in the program.

The Section 8 staff is working off a waiting of list of some 1,200 families. When that list is exhausted, the Authority will begin taking new applications.

For more information, contact John Horan at 452-2425.