Tioga County rental program vouchers increase

MANSFIELD – The decrease in the number of people waiting for subsidized housing and an approved increase in rental assistance was the main topic of discussion at Monday’s Tioga County Housing Authority meeting, said Executive Director Kelley Cevette.

“Our units are filled on a fairly regular basis, and that is vitally important because our funding is based on our occupancy,” she said.

The reason for the reduction in the waiting list, she added, is “the gas situation isn’t as heavy as it was a year ago.”

Even though natural gas industry activity seems to have let up, easing demand for housing, rents have not yet followed suit, so the authority applied for emergency exception payment standards for all bedroom size units under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which was granted by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development on Jan. 3.

According to Cevette, the standards, accepted by the authority board on Monday, are 125 percent of the applicable fair market rent limits in both Tioga and Bradford counties.

In Tioga County for an efficiency apartment, the approved monthly emergency exception payment is $461; for a one bedroom, $651; two bedroom, $772; for a three bedroom, $962 and for a four bedroom, $1,175.

In Bradford County the payments are $568 for an efficiency; $576 for a one bedroom; $762 for a two bedroom; $1,022 for a three bedroom and $1,026 for a four bedroom.

“Our justification for such a request was to address the higher rents currently in Tioga County due to the shale gas industry,” she said. “These emergency payment standards are immediately effective now that the board has adopted them.”

In other business, the authority:

Approved a new contract with UGI Energy Services Inc. to purchase bulk natural gas from April 2013 through October 2014 for $4.44 per dekatherm, down from last year’s $5.62 per dekatherm.

Approved a renewed contract with software provider Tenmast.

Heard an update on the PHARE-Rental Rehab Program. The contract with the Pennsylvania Housing Financing Agency for the program has been signed and the authority is waiting to be notified of a starting date. The authority will notify the public as to as soon as PHFA gives approval. Applications will be available on the authority’s website, www.tbhra.org, at that time.