By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
In a stroke of good luck that officials had not anticipated, Mercer County Housing Authority is getting 51 new housing vouchers to provide rent subsidies to residents who live in privately owned apartments or homes.
While the vouchers will not immediately put a dent in the authority’s waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program – also known as Section 8 – officials hope that will occur over time.
“It’s a glimpse of hope for this program,” authority Executive Director Nannette Livadas told the authority board Wednesday.
The vouchers were granted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development after the owners of Shenango Park Apartments, a privately owned complex in Hermitage, paid off their mortgage, she said.
While the Shenango Park owners had a mortgage, tenants were eligible for a federal rent-subsidy program. The program ended when the mortgage went away, she said.
However, HUD created the new vouchers to help the Shenango Park tenants who had been getting rent subsidies, Livadas said.
Initially, the vouchers will go only to Shenango Park tenants who received federal subsidies under the previous program, she said. Those residents can remain at Shenango Park or take the vouchers elsewhere to rent a new place.
“Most of them will stay but they have options now,” Livadas said.
The new vouchers also will come with a caveat.
“They will never pay less than what they are paying now,” she said. “We’re going to keep you stable while you’re at Shenango Park.”
As those residents give up the vouchers or leave the program, the vouchers return to the authority and can be used as any other voucher controlled by the authority, she said.
The initial benefit to the authority is that it will start collecting administrative fees from the federal government to manage the vouchers.
Officials bemoaned last month that the federal sequestration budget cuts will mean the authority will receive 75 percent of the funds it is eligible for, a figure that officials said Wednesday could drop by another 8 percent.
The additional vouchers mean more money will come into authority coffers, something officials welcome.
“I’m so happy because we’ve been crying so much about the voucher program,” Livadas said. “Happy with helping 51 new people with the voucher program and that we get the administrative fees for those people.”
The new vouchers raise the total controlled by the authority to 383.