Housing subsidy jobs cut

U.S. audit urged changes in city agency operations

May 04, 2002|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's public housing agency will eliminate 15 of 97 positions in its Section 8 rental subsidy program as part of a plan to streamline operations developed in the wake of a scathing federal audit of the program last year.

The reductions will trim $700,000 or more in expenses and bring the size of the staff more in line with that of rental subsidy programs in other cities, Michael H. Kramer, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City's associate deputy director for rental and assisted housing, said yesterday.

"Everyone's aware of the audit and the fact that the Section 8 program was not serving the community in the manner it should," said Kramer, referring to a March 2001 audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which called the city's program "barely functional."

"We've been working pretty hard over the last year to re-energize the organization," added Kramer, who was hired last year to fix the deficiencies in the program, which administers vouchers provided to poor families to rent in the private market.

Three officials of AFSCME Council 67 were arrested by Housing Authority police when they declined to leave a meeting at Pleasant View Gardens yesterday morning called by authority officials to explain the reductions.

The three were charged with failure to obey, but those were later dropped and will not be pursued, authority and union officials said.

Glenard S. Middleton Sr., executive director of the AFSCME local, was sharply critical of the Housing Authority for the arrests and for the layoffs, calling the agency "anti-union."

As for the layoffs, Middleton, whose union represents about half of the Section 8 employees, said, "They're suffering for mistakes by administrators and other managers."

All Section 8 employees - whose jobs include inspecting units, interviewing applicants and recruiting landlords - were handed notices yesterday that they could be laid off in 30 days. But authority officials said they would need 82 employees in the revamped agency and hoped to fill most of them from the ranks of current workers.

Officials expect that workers who do not find jobs in the Section 8 program will be offered positions elsewhere in the Housing Authority.

Kramer said that, coupled with other changes, savings from the staff reductions will help the program reach the break-even point. It had been losing millions of dollars, affecting other programs, he said.

The authority receives about $7 million a year from HUD to administer the $60 million yearly rental subsidy program, based on a fee of about $50 per unit per month, Kramer said.

An "action plan" developed by HUD and the Housing Authority after last year's audit called in part for the authority to "revise organization and staffing levels to improve productivity."

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