MANSFIELD - The lack of funding and demand for housing because of the Marcellus Shale drilling is about to break upon the Tioga County Housing Authority's rental assistance program.
According to authority Executive Director Kelley Cevette, with an anticipated recapture of money by the department of Housing and Urban Development of between $50,000 and $60,000 next year, there will be that much less rental assistance funding available to make up the difference for clients who already are hard pressed to find a place to live for a reasonable rent.
HUD has determined that because the authority has excess funds in its reserve accounts, it can afford to lose half of it, but with the increase in rental costs in the Northern Tier, that $108,000 in reserve money is being used to make up the difference for the increased rental costs.
With the loss of the money, there only will be about seven months worth of funding available for assistance vouchers in 2012 for the 195 clients in the program right now.
There are about 32 still out looking for affordable housing, but having little luck, she added.
"It is doubly difficult for us because fair market rents have increased, so when the time comes to renew, landlords ask for an increase," she said.
Most rental assistance clients pay about 30 percent of the monthly rent, and "we can go as high as 40 percent, but then they have to pay a lot more toward their rent," Cevette added, "so we can't get people to participate because they can't find rental units within our income guidelines."
To stave off "worst case scenario" measures, which include removing some people from the program, Cevette said the authority would not interview any new applicants after the 32 vouchers currently out in community expire, and they will not be extended to 120 days.
"If every one of them found a place this month, it would greatly reduce our recapture rate. But those people can't find places," Cevette said.
"After the first of the year, we hope to have some attrition, but currently no one has come off the program," Cevette added.
Finance Director Charlie Bourque said HUD has not said if it is using 2010 or 2011 figures to base its recapture figures on.
"If they use 2011, we can sustain ourselves through 2012, but we are being proactive early on to protect ourselves, and we do expect to see some normal attrition," he added.
HUD will announce the authority's renewal funding level in late December or early January, he said.
"There is an appeal process. If we say we have to take people off in seven months it may get HUD to revisit their decision," Bourque said.
There would be some help through the state PFHA, which offers up to two years of rental assistance, but the Tioga County authority has pulled back on its use of that program because of the huge need in Bradford County, which has a waiting list of close to 800 people, Cevette said. Tioga County has 340 applicants on its waiting list.
In other business, the authority board:
Heard from Shawn Sember, newly hired resident service coordinator, who reported on his activities in the two and a half months he has been in the position.
Heard there are three vacancies in public housing at Tabor Townhouses in Blossburg, but will have "no problem" renting those as soon as they are ready.
Heard that the authority has a 100 percent performance rating from HUD.
Heard that Bourque was able to find a supplemental health insurance carrier that will lower costs for the agency and its employees in 2012.
Announced its next meeting will be in January.