Pittsburgh housing authority votes to convert 3 communities to Section 8

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The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh's board today voted to convert three communities from low-income public housing to Section 8 in a bid to bring in more funding for repairs and improvements.

The vote allows the authority management to apply to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to change the Glen Hazel Family Community, Glen Hazel High Rise and, in Squirrel Hill, Murray Towers High Rise to project-based Section 8 properties.

If approved, the conversions would be part of a nationwide effort by HUD to shift some 60,000 public housing units to Section 8.

The 292 units in the three communities would still be owned and managed by the authority. But because they would be funded under HUD's Section 8 program, rather than its Low-Income Public Housing Program, the federal subsidies would likely be insulated from budget cuts, authority executives said.

Also, because the funding stream would be guaranteed for 20 years, and could be renewed for another 20 years, the authority could borrow against it to fund renovations.

"It basically restores the units to make them long-term viable for the future," chief financial officer Ed Mauk said.

Board member Janet Evans said residents seemed worried about how it would affect rents.

"I'm not very comfortable with this at all," she said.

Most resident rents would remain unchanged, Mr. Mauk said.

The only exceptions would be to about 45 households with relatively healthy incomes whose rents are now capped at public housing maximums. Because Section 8 rents are based on 30 percent of income, with no ceiling, their rents might go up.

If HUD accepted the application, the authority would draft plans for improving the communities. The board would then cast a final vote on whether to go through with the funding change and renovations.

After receiving those assurances, Ms. Evans and the rest of the board members voted for the application.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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