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Westmoreland housing authority seeks OK to use facilities as collateral for renovations

| Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Westmoreland County Housing Authority could reclassify about 25 percent of its public housing inventory as part of a move to raise as much as $15 million to pay for renovations.

Authority board members last week voted to apply for participation in the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program, a new federal program that transfers public housing units to Section 8 subsidized housing.

The program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development would reclassify 60,000 units throughout the country, a move that would enable local housing agencies to raise money for capital improvements.

For the authority, the move would affect 503 apartments in New Kensington, Arnold and Lower Burrell.

Authority Executive Director Michael Washowich said residents wouldn't experience direct impact from the bookkeeping maneuver because rents and other services should not be impacted.

The program would allow the authority to post the properties as collateral as well as leverage future rent payments from those apartments to secure bank loans that can be used for renovations.

The authority could receive as much as $15 million in loans, Washowich said.

“This would be an immediate infusion of capital money to make the renovations for a long period of time,” Washowich said.

The authority has more than 1,950 public housing units spread throughout the county.

Tenants in the public housing units pay rent based on their incomes. Section 8 housing tenants receive vouchers for reduced rents.

Tenants in apartments impacted by the potential switch would not experience a change in their rents, Washowich said.

It is unknown when HUD could approve of the switch, Washowich said.

Additional public housing units in other locations of the county could be added if the nationwide program is later expanded, Washowich said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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