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Section 8 Housing Loophole

An NBC 10 Philadelphia investigation published Wednesday revealed one reason for the influx of Philadelphia natives living in Johnstown.

The article revealed a loophole that allows people to bypass Philadelphia’s housing waiting list by moving to Section 8 housing in Johnstown first.

“My hope is that this can generate those conversations that we’ve been trying to have and we’re able to come up with a solution that enables obviously from my office’s perspective law enforcement to not be stretched so thin as a result of this.”

“It has stretched our resources, particularly in the city. The City of Johnstown spends a lot of time investigating and ultimately my office spends a lot of time prosecuting people from Philadelphia,”

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee hosted a public hearing in Johnstown last month to question the trend.

At the hearing, local lawmakers discussed influx of transient families from Philadelphia and the rise of local crime associated with it.

“It’s not new news. We’ve known about this. We have a problem. We have a problem with crime, and we have a problem with our transient population.”

That’s what Representative Jim Rigby told us regarding his response to the latest investigation.

“We can’t take more than what we have to offer. I think the transients are going to continue until we find a way to reduce the numbers that we’re bringing in,”

Johnstown’s population was over 63,000 in the 1950s, and today it’s about 18,000.

Public officials have been asking: why does Johnstown have the same amount of housing for a declining population?

“As the population in Cambria County and Greater Johnstown have decreased, subsidized housing and vouchers have increased. That cannot be allowed to continue to happen.”

Senator Wayne Langerholc said they are figuring our a way to address this from state and federal levels.

“This story is potentially worse than a billboard, because now, people are going to be aware of this problem, and the happenstance reaction to this is: ‘It’s legal, it can happen.’ That’s a way for them to find a vehicle,”

“One of the issues I discovered while canvassing the city this summer was a profound concern of local residents over the influx of people from Philadelphia in Section 8 housing. If the Johnstown Housing Authority (JHA) has a surplus that they can fund the housing wish list of people from Philadelphia that purposely move here just to get a government benefit then perhaps the Housing Authority needs to downsize the scope of its Section 8 program. The Johnstown Housing Authority doesn’t and shouldn’t exist to be a feeder system for public housing in Philadelphia, that’s why I’m calling for HUD to Audit the Johnstown Housing Authority to determine the extent of the practice of “porting” Section 8 Vouchers and to make sure all tenants meet eligibility requirements. I’m also calling on our Federal Congressman and Senators to join me in pushing for this audit. Then and only then can elected officials and citizens have the knowledge needed to determine how big the problem is and whether it should be allowed to continue.”

Michael Alberts, the Director of the Johnstown Housing Authority, also responded to 6 News about his role in the NBC 10 Philadelphia story:

“Claudia Vargas from NBC 10 Philadelphia first reached out to us in July and I explained how Section 8 portability works and provided some general statistics. They visited Johnstown in mid-August and we have remained in contact about the status of voucher port-outs to Philadelphia and if they were being billed to us or absorbed into their program.”

We also reached out to the Philadelphia Housing Authority for comment, but they have not responded.

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