The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

December 12, 2013

Interest high in housing program

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY — The first day Mercer County Housing Authority accepted applications for the Housing Choice Voucher Program in November, 111 came in.

“We hadn’t had our list open for years, so it was nice to see the interest,” said authority Executive Director Nannette Livadas.

The program, also known as Section 8, provides federal subsidies for low-income people to live in apartments and homes owned by private landlords.

The waiting list had been closed when it stood at about 500, and was reopened because it had dropped to about 180.

The authority has 383 vouchers available and 360 were being used as of the end of November.

Those 360 vouchers meant that $129,000 was paid as rent to landlords, about $360 a voucher.

Livadas noted that people who hold vouchers can go anywhere in the country to live, even though the voucher was issued in Mercer County. The portability is problematic financially because people with vouchers often move to areas where rents are much higher.

The eight portable vouchers cost the authority $770 each, more than twice the cost they have to pay to a Mercer County landlord, Livadas said.

“That goes to show you how hard it is to manage the Housing Choice Voucher Program,” she said. “Not much we can do about it.”

She added that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which requires the portability of vouchers, also understands the difficulty in managing them.

The problem is more acute at authorities that have many more portable vouchers, especially those that do not have as many total vouchers as Mercer County, she said.