my information

--- Issued March 3, 2011

From the Erie Daily Times:

Erie Housing Authority serves record number of families in 2010

The Erie Housing Authority provided housing help to a record number of families in 2010.

The authority was serving 3,067 families as of Dec. 31, an all-time high in its 73-year-history.

A total of 514 new families, elderly and people with disabilities received housing assistance from the authority in 2010.

"It's amazing when you think about it," Housing Authority Executive Director John Horan said.

The weak economy means more people are looking for housing assistance, Horan said.

The record year in 2010 was a reflection of changes the authority made in the way it does business so it can help more people in a faster, more efficient way, Horan said.

The authority reorganized its operation to process applications more quickly, he said. It also changed its maintenance system, switching from a centralized system, in which maintenance workers could be called to any authority-owned housing development, to a decentralized system, in which the workers are assigned to supervisors managing specific developments.

Workers also are required to complete renovations and repairs within a set timetable.

The change has resulted in faster turnaround times, from when an apartment is vacated until it is made ready for a new occupant, and shorter waits for potential tenants, Horan said. It also helps whittle a backlog of vacant units.

There were 60 vacancies in public housing on Dec. 31, 2010, compared with 216 on Dec. 31, 2009.

Total occupancy reached 97 percent at year's end.

"Because we were able to help more people last year, that means that even the newest people on the waiting list we were able to move," Horan said.

Another benefit of a boom year: More people in more apartments means more rent revenue for the authority -- total rent collection was up $494,238 in 2010 over 2009, according to the authority's annual plan.

More rent revenue means more money for services that help some of Erie's neediest residents, including job training and educational programs.

The Housing Authority "is not just an affordable housing program," Horan said. "It's a self-sufficiency program."

Agnes Priscaro, chairwoman of the authority's board of directors, said she thinks access to services and programs, including educational scholarships, is a big draw for potential residents.

Fun events like the annual gardening contest also help create an inviting environment, she said.

"Some of those people have handicaps and health programs and when everything is there for them, it makes life easier for those individuals," Priscaro said. "When they see that, they want to come."

Another incentive is safety, she said.

A recent survey found that 85 percent of polled residents feel safe alone at night in their home or apartment, and 89.9 percent feel safe alone during the daytime in a parking area.

Mayor Joe Sinnott said the authority's services are essential, and praised the work of the organization. He said he wasn't surprised by the record year.

"I think it's important that the authority not only does the excellent work they do in housing, but that they do a very good job of having the support programs that help," Sinnott said. "It's not just putting a roof over someone's head, but it's helping them with other needs to get them on their feet."

ERICA ERWIN can be reached at 870-1846 or by e-mail.

JOHN HORAN can be rfeached at 452-2425.