Tampa and Hillsborough are merging Section 8 housing programs for low-income families listen08/09/11 Olivia Kabat
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The Tampa Housing Authority and Hillsborough County Affordable Housing are merging their housing assistance programs for low-income families.
The city and county are merging their Section 8 programs because of the ongoing economic recession. They say the goal is to provide better service for families in need and to save money. Paula Harvey, director of Hillsborough County’s Affordable Housing Department says merging the programs for low-income housing assistance will also reduce confusion and duplication on waiting lists for rental assistance.
“We’ve already been put on notice by the federal officials that their considering cutbacks in funds available for administering the program which puts us in a position to be looking for efficiencies for delivery as a service. The consideration of merging with the Tampa Housing Authority came about as a result of discussions over several years. Their program is larger in terms of their staffing and the number of vouchers they have. They are considered to be a star performer in the delivery of the rental voucher program by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).”
Harvey said the Tampa Housing Authority and Hillsborough County Affordable Housing are willingly working together.
“Right now we are already operating under a memorandum of understanding which allows for the opportunity for both them and us in the county to place perspective tenants in units that are either in the city or the county. So we are already operating under an exchange program of rental units available to the general public that meet the qualifications for the program.”
Families enrolled in the Section 8 program receive money from federal vouchers to help pay for housing. With the new merger plan approved, Harvey assures that no one in the Section 8 programs should be affected.
“Then we’ll be sending out a general notice to all of our tenants and also to all of our landlords who provide the rental units that this program change will be occurring. However it should have no impact on them as individuals or their status in terms of renting a unit or being on the waiting lists.”
An Interlocal Agreement between Tampa and Hillsborough County’s Housing Authority has been finalized and approved. Consolidation of agencies could save money for governments, but how will this affect the employees of Hillsborough County Section 8 Housing?
“The employees that a currently working for Hillsborough County has received notices that at the end of the fiscal year they would need to have another position because their position would be eliminated from the county budget. Some of those employees have chosen to retire, some are moving onto other jobs that are currently open and available in county government, and then all of the employees that are there will also be considered for hiring under the Tampa Housing Authority Program. They are creating positions that can be filled by the people who work for the county.”
Margaret Jones, Director of Assisted Housing for the Tampa Housing Authority says some of the Hillsborough County employees will receive positions at the Tampa Housing Agency.
“We’re anticipating hiring between seven to eight employees and we’re going to give first preference to the Hillsborough County staff and we are actually going over there tomorrow to speak to them and give them the job descriptions. We’re going to let them know that we highly encourage them to apply for these positions.”
Jones says one unified agency will benefit the families by stopping confusion while continuing to offer helpful service to those in need of assistance.
“Basically the number one priority is the families in our community; it’s going to be able to serve as a one stop shop for our families. We have families coming from all over the place, from different states, and when they come to this area it’s confusing because they don’t know which housing authority to go to. So the main change of course is that families and landlords will just go to one place for service.”
The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners approved the final decision. The merger plan will become effective on October 1, 2011.