POST Online Media Lite Edition


Institutionalized persons are our first priority for rental subsidy

Megan Kelly |
DHS and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) were awarded funds to prevent individuals with disabilities from being unnecessarily institutionalized or falling into homelessness.

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In early December, Pennsylvania has successfully transitioned the first Pennsylvanian into an apartment through the Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) program.

We talked with Department of Human Services' (DHS) Office of Social Programs, Executive Housing Coordinator, Jonathan McVey, about Section 811 PRA program in Pennsylvania and how it provides innovative housing solutions for residents with disabilities.

POST: What are official estimations, how many individuals are in need for Section 811 PRA help?

Mr. McVey: When Pennsylvania applied for the Section 811 PRA Demonstration grant, we placed persons who are institutionalized at the highest priority. This means persons living in private and public mental health hospitals, nursing facilities, state centers, and intermediate care facilities (for example) are one of the primary focuses of this grant.

Based on our 2012 application, there were approximately 84,594 individuals who meet this highest priority and are potentially eligible for this rental subsidy. Because there are also two other priority groups Pennsylvania identified in its application, the number of individuals identified above is just a snapshot of the total number of people who are potentially eligible.

There are also various eligibility requirements that must be met to participate and obtain the rental subsidy, so not all of these individuals will be eligible.

It is important to remember that this is a federal demonstration, which means part of the purpose of the program is to allow states to build systems and processes that meet their needs and to identify best practices.

POST: How Pennsylvania compares to other states when it comes to Project Rental Assistance program?

Mr. McVey: Pennsylvania was one of 13 states in the first grant cycle and one of 25 states in the second grant cycle to be awarded Section 811 PRA Demonstration funds.

Since receiving the approval to begin implementation from the HUD, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency have been diligently working to implement the Demonstration in measured phases with plans to eventually implement it statewide.

POST: Pennsylvania compares special attention to homeless veterans. What is the current situations, how many veterans are without a place to stay?

Mr. McVey: Based on the HUD's Point-in-Time Count in January of 2015, there were approximately 1,375 (sheltered and unsheltered) Veterans in Pennsylvania who were homeless. The next count will occur in January of 2016.

To help these Veterans, Governor Wolf issued a 100 day challenge for the fall and early winter of 2015 for local communities, municipalities, and county governments in Pennsylvania to significantly reduce Veteran homelessness.

POST: Does Section 811 PRA encourage placement of individuals in need in green, energy efficient buildings, which in turn means lower costs in the long run?

Mr. McVey: Yes. HUD's program guidance and rules for the Section 811 PRA Demonstration do encourage the use of energy efficient "Green" buildings and communities. Pennsylvania is also leveraging existing and new Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties that have energy conservation and green building requirements already.

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