Shifting of Federal Funds Away From Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG, PA- Accompanied by members of the Pennsylvania legislature, leaders of housing authorities across Pennsylvania gathered today at the state capitol to criticize the federal government's decision to shift housing funds away from Pennsylvania to other parts of the country. The housing executive directors also announced backing for their effort from the Pennsylvania Legislature, which plans to issue a resolution on the matter before the session ends next week.  

The resolution "recognizes the importance of the quality services, support and housing provided by Pennsylvania's public housing authorities," and urges Congress to fully fund public housing in the Commonwealth.

State Senator Shirley Kitchen said that without public housing, a lot of people would not make it. "I'm not ashamed of my background … I was once in public housing and now I'm a homeowner. I was able to save up for a house because I was able to pay my rent. We are talking about people's lives and whether they will be able to make it. We have to do this; it is not a choice."

Philadelphia Housing Authority Executive Director Carl Greene thanked the Legislature for its support and said that the federal government has essentially pitted poor people in one region of the country against poor people in another region.

"We have no quarrel with more housing dollars going to places like Texas and Florida, but Washington shouldn't cut our funding in the Northeast as a result. The need for affordable housing in Pennsylvania has only increased," he said.

Allegheny County Housing Authority executive director Frank Aggazio said the outlook for his clients is bleak. "Federal funding cuts are making it almost impossible to serve the people who depend on us: low-income Americans, many of whom are elderly and disabled."

The housing authority chiefs say the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to blame for the funding shift. HUD this year announced new rules that govern the way housing authorities operate. Those rules change the formula for how funds are distributed. Combined with dramatic funding cuts from Congress, housing authorities in Pennsylvania are being hit with a double whammy.

Chester (city) Housing Authority executive director Steve Fischer underscored the point. "After first having altered the fundamental way we do business, now the feds have the audacity to sock us with the most colossal funding cut in our history.  All this happens within the same year.  This can only be seen as the Administration's design to gut housing assistance for the poor.  It seems Congress is standing by and condoning this," he said. Fischer says his agency alone will take a $750,000 hit this year.

The housing leaders' argument has attracted some attention. Nineteen of Pennsylvania's 21 member U.S. congressional delegation signed a letter to HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, asking that he turn back the funding shift.

The resolution to be approved by state lawmakers will be another indication of political unity against the funding cuts and shift away from Pennsylvania.  

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland of Chester said providing full funding would enable public housing authorities to continue to help people with a new start in life.

"A few short years ago public housing sites were called projects, places that were not conducive to living. Now they are one of the safest places in our community. It boggles the mind to know that our federal government is committed to pouring billions rebuilding other countries. Our call to the federal government is to start here at home."
Philadelphia Housing Authority Executive Director Carl Greene thanked the Legislature for its support and said that the federal government has essentially pitted poor people in one region of the country against poor people in another region.

Standing with Greene at the podium are (l-r) State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, Pittsburgh Housing Authority Executive Director A-Fulton Meacham, and Carl Payne, Executive Director of the Harrisburg Housing Authority.

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland of Chester said providing full funding would enable public housing authorities to continue to help people with a new start in life.