LAWRENCE COUNTY Housing authority scores 100% on HUD evaluation



The Section 8 waiting list almost equals the number of units rented.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The Lawrence County Housing Authority has received a perfect score on the most recent annual U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development evaluation of its Section 8 housing program.
Under Section 8, the federal government subsidizes rents for tenants who meet income-eligibility requirements and live in privately owned properties.
The maximum permissible household income varies according to family size. The tenant pays 30 percent of the household's adjusted monthly income for rent and the federal government pays the rest.
The housing authority scored 100 percent on HUD's evaluation of its Section 8 program for 2003, the authority announced Thursday. In its Section Eight Management Assessment Program, known as SEMAP, HUD rates an 80-percent-to-89-percent score as standard performance and any score of 90 percent or better as high performance.
The local housing authority has 376 of its 378 available Section 8 rental units in use by tenants, with about 350 households on the waiting list, with an average waiting time of 12 to 18 months between the application and move-in date, said Gene DiGennaro, the local housing authority's Section 8 coordinator.
The number of Section 8 units authorized for the authority hasn't grown in four to five years, he said.
Hoping for more vouchers
DiGennaro said he hopes the perfect score can help the authority get federal authorization for an increase in its allotment of Section 8 vouchers to allow more income-eligible local households to use the program.
HUD rates housing authorities on a multitude of criteria, including whether they make the required annual safety inspections of all units; how well they adhere to the first-come, first-served waiting list; and how well they ensure accurate determinations of tenant income, reasonable rents and housing quality.
At its meeting, the authority board awarded these contracts for modernization of its housing projects: Mahoning Builders Inc. of New Castle as the general contractor at $374,000; McCurley Electric of Bessemer as the electrical contractor at $95,240; Gary Crim Construction of Youngstown as the plumbing contractor at $131,000; D.J. Hannon & amp; Sons of New Castle as the mechanical (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) contractor at $36,576.
It opted to rebid the roofing contract because bids greatly exceeded authority estimates -- in this case by more than 10 percent.
All the renovations will be in buildings that are at least 25 years old, said Robert J. Evanick, the authority's executive director. The authority has 12 housing sites throughout the county.
The authority board also hired N.J. Cunzulo Associates of Pittsburgh as the architect for about $8 million worth of construction that will include making 5 percent of its rental units in each housing community fully handicapped-accessible as required by HUD, converting some units in its high rises from efficiency to one-bedroom apartments, and building a storage and maintenance facility.

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