On Jan. 10, almost 100 public housing agencies nationwide participated in rallies and shutdowns to protest federal funding cuts, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Federal funds distributed to public housing authorities have been cut for three straight years, the article said. The national protest was initiated by Carl Greene, executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. “If the current trend continues, many housing authorities will simply go out of business,” Greene said. The demise of housing authorities will lead to homelessness, said a Pittsburgh Housing Authority official. According to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a new formula redistributing public housing operating funds from Northeastern to Sun Belt states reflects research showing that Northeastern states have been overfunded while Southern states have been underfunded.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority responded to lost federal funds by laying off 350 employees, more than a fifth of its workforce, reported the Philadelphia Daily News. Officials estimate the cuts will shave $24 million from the agency’s $32 million budget hole. With layoffs hitting maintenance staff particularly hard, property conditions will decline, said Greene, who also stated that the PHA police staff will shrink, potentially putting residents at risk. Authority staff is seeking PHA board approval to generate about $20 million by selling roughly 350 scattered-site housing units, from a total portfolio of about 6,000 units.
Two days after the public housing protests, Philadelphia Mayor John Street joined Stamford, Conn., Mayor Dannel Malloy and 11 other mayors in a closed-door session with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), reported The Stamford Advocate. The mayors presented the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ legislative agenda. The agenda includes increased funding for public housing, allocating more Homeland Security funding to cities with more likely terrorist targets, launching a block grant program to help communities fund energy-efficiency and environmental technology, and reversing cuts to crime-prevention programs. The mayors told Pelosi that their immediate concern is restoring public housing funding, Akron, Ohio, Mayor Don Plusquellic said in a conference call reported by the Akron Beacon Journal. HUD has requested 76 percent of the funds for which housing authorities are eligible under a federal formula, the article said. According to the Akron Housing Authority’s executive director, housing authorities have historically received 92 to 96 percent of the funds for which they are eligible.