Philadelphia Housing Group Announces Cuts
Philadelphia Housing Group Announces Cuts
The agency that runs Philadelphia's public housing is laying off 20 percent of its workers. The Philadelphia Housing Authority says rising maintenance costs and inadequate federal funding are forcing it to cut 350 jobs. The move follows a similar layoff in Newark, N.J.
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About 100 public housing agencies across the country plan to close their offices for the day tomorrow. They're protesting federal funding cuts that have led to layoffs and service reductions at many local housing agencies.
This morning, the Philadelphia Housing Authority announced that it will layoff 350 employees - that's about 20 percent of its staff.
Brad Linder reports.
BRAD LINDER: More than 80,000 low-income Philadelphians live in public housing. About 1,600 people work for the housing authority, providing services ranging from housing construction and maintenance, to public safety. But Philadelphia Housing Authority Director Carl Greene says the agency runs entirely on federal dollars, and is receiving only 76 percent of the money it needs. At a press conference this morning, Greene said he has no choice but to lay off staff.
Mr. CARL GREENE (Director, Philadelphia Housing Authority): Work orders will not be done, or be done on a delayed timeframe. Oversight of contractors will severely impact this. Crime - if we don't provide quality, affordable services to all families in a city that gave them an opportunity to live safely in this neighborhoods, we will see increase in crime.
LINDER: The layoffs take effect in about two weeks. Philadelphia isn't alone. In November, Newark Housing Authority in New Jersey laid off a quarter of its work force. Cities from Camden, New Jersey, to Birmingham, Alabama, faced with similar federal budget cuts, have been forced to layoff staff, or cut back on service delivery.
Thomas Payne Crownen(ph) heads one of the unions laid off housing working in Philadelphia. He says he would have liked to see the housing authority do more to curb costs before resorting to layoffs, but he agrees that the size of the federal budget cuts made layoffs unavoidable.
Mr. THOMAS PAYNE CROWNEN (Union Head, laid off Philadelphia Housing Authority employees): I'm sure that there are issues such as how they spend money, how much money do they put in advertising, how much money were public relations. And I'm sure there's other things, but it would not have turned around the high volume of money being cut by the federal government.
LINDER: And public housing isn't the only place being hit hard by budget cuts. The city's affordable housing department has also been hit with a 25 percent cut in federal funding over the last four years. Federal officials say there's a limited pool of money to go around.
Donna White is spokesperson for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She says it's true that local housing agencies are receiving only about 76 percent of what they need from the federal government. Last year, they had 85 percent. But White says that's not because less money is being spent on public housing.
Ms. DONNA WHITE: (Spokesperson, Department of Housing and Urban Development): For the most part, the operating subsidy funding level has been just that, it's been level. There's hasn't been a cut in overall funding, but it has been the rise in eligibility of the housing authorities.
LINDER: White says HUD launched the funding formula for public housing this year, which means that some local housing authorities will see more money than last year, while others will receive less. That, combined with rising utility costs just squeezed the budget of many housing agencies.
But that doesn't make Gloria(ph) Red(ph) and Corlis(ph) Grey(ph) feel any better. They're public housing residents in Philadelphia, and they attended this morning's announcement. They were not happy to find out that maintenance, police and other personnel were being laid off.
Ms. GLORIA RED (Public Housing Resident, Philadelphia): You get a (unintelligible) .
Ms. CORLIS GREY (Public Housing Resident, Philadelphia): Mr. Greene said that the roofers are laid off, so we have a problem with the roof. We're getting nothing. We have to go back to the old school, with the buckets down, let it leak all over.
Ms. RED: We get service within three days, now. I guess we'll get it within two weeks now. Some are emergencies, so you sit on your emergency, you might have to leave your house. Because the emergency is that great, you can't live in there.
LINDER: Grey has lived in public housing for 45 years. She raised her children in Philadelphia's Greenlane(ph) housing development, and watched them go on to get good jobs, and move out of public housing. But she's worried that the funding cuts continue, low-income families won't be provided the same opportunities her children had.
For NPR News, I'm Brad Linder in Philadelphia.
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