Computer woes hamper rental subsidy payments

March 15, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Computer problems have resulted in the Housing Authority of Baltimore City failing to pay the rent of 3,000 poor city residents who are receiving federal Section 8 subsidies.

New city Housing Commissioner Patricia J. Payne revealed the problem yesterday in her first news conference since being confirmed Monday night by City Council. Payne, who also serves as executive director of the city housing authority, said the snag affected about a third of the housing subsidies for the city poor.

With the average rent support estimated at $450, the glitch -- which occurred at the end of last year -- involved about $1.3 million in monthly city payments to landlords, Payne said. After noticing the problem, blamed on the switch from mainframe to portable computers, Payne said, Housing Authority staff began processing the subsidies manually.

"It is a significant problem," Payne said.

Payne, a former state housing secretary, estimated that the computer woes will be solved within 120 days. The Housing Authority has established a hot line for payment problems at 410-545-7990. Calls are being taken from 8: 30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Payne also announced that the elevators in the Flag House housing projects in East Baltimore have been shut down because of safety worries. The 487-unit high-rise complex is scheduled to be demolished by the end of the year but still contains occupants in 18 units, Payne said.

On other housing matters, Payne announced that:

Home ownership in the city had reached an all-time high at 56 percent. Payne said that city-sponsored programs, including grants to city workers, made up 37 percent of all home sales in the city last year.

The city is seeking representatives to serve on the Hope VI Community Task Force for the redevelopment of Broadway Homes. The city intends to demolish the 429-apartment high-rise property at Broadway and Fayette streets in East Baltimore and replace it with 160 units. The task force meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. March 22 at the Community Center at Pleasant View Gardens, 201 N. Aisquith St.

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