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--- Issued June 9, 2011

By John E. Horan
Executive Director
Housing Authority of the City of Erie

The current federal budget is going to cause substantial problems for the affordable housing program in this country.

The attempts to balance the federal budget for the current federal fiscal year, which ends September 30, will result in the loss of Section 8 housing assistance for families across the country. It is particularly ironic that Congress and the President have signed a budget resolution that would provide adequate funding for current Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders, but cut the funds to administer the program by 30 percent.

In Erie, we have a very small staff that supports nearly 1,000 families who participate in our Section 8 Program. This includes compliance with a whole raft of federal regulations imposed by Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. We are known in government and public housing circles as an efficient agency that performs our job with a very low overhead.

We administered the $4.2 million 2010 Section 8 Program at a cost of $485,174. This is a payroll and overhead cost of less than 12 percent, one of the lowest for a program of this size anywhere in the country.

By using our reserves, we will be able to stave off a 30 percent staff cut for this year and possibly into 2012. If this staff reduction occurs, we will have to reduce the number of families receiving Section 8 Assistance.

This will also have a direct impact on the Erie economy. All of the $4.2 million in 2010 went to private landlords in Erie to subsidize a portion of the rent for those 1,000 needy families. A 30 percent cut in staffing, if it comes to be, will eventually mean a 30 percent cut in the number of families we can assist. Which means the owners of 300 City of Erie rental units will not receive payments from the Housing Authority. The financial ramifications for those landlords could be significant.

This country has always been judged by how we care for the elderly, for children, and for those who cannot care for themselves.

Attempting to balance the federal budget on the backs of those who can least afford it is wrong-headed and simply won’t work. There is not enough money in the federal domestic budget to solve the budget problem even if we eliminated everything.

Now is the time to let your elected officials at the federal level -- members of Congress, United States Senators and the President -- know your thoughts on this important matter before it is too late.