Burns seeks HUD audit of Johnstown Housing Authority’s Section 8 Program

Wants federal assurance that tenants meet all eligibility requirements

EBENSBURG, Dec. 12 – Responding to citizen concerns that Johnstown is plagued by a revolving door of Philadelphia residents gaming the city’s Section 8 Program, state Rep. Frank Burns has asked for a federal audit of the Johnstown Housing Authority’s operation of that subsidized housing program.

Burns, D-Cambria, who is representing Johnstown for the first time, has requested that the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development conduct the audit to primarily ensure that all Section 8 tenants meet eligibility requirements – including passing any required criminal background and credit checks. The audit could also determine if further investigation is warranted.

“HUD supplies the funding and writes the rules, so I’m asking them to start by verifying the money is being spent properly and the rules are being followed,” Burns said. “I’m no Shakespeare, but when a Philadelphia TV station is breaking the news about how people from there are flocking to Johnstown just to get on Section 8, I suspect something is rotten in more than Denmark.”

Burns said media outlet NBC10 Investigators documented that Philadelphia residents are coming to and settling in Johnstown just to sign up for a Section 8 voucher which, once received, can be “ported” to Philadelphia – in which case the Johnstown Housing Authority can remain on the hook for making subsidy payments to landlords in the City of Brotherly Love.

“That money should be staying here, to serve Cambria County residents who are in need of subsidized public housing,” Burns said. “If there’s enough financial slack or lack of demand that the JHA can absorb these costs and pay for people to live in Philadelphia, then it needs to downsize its Section 8 Program and let HUD deploy that money where it is truly needed.”

Other elected officials representing Cambria County have responded to the NBC10 report by focusing on making HUD rule changes to close the loophole that allows for “porting” the vouchers, which Burns also supports but believes could take the federal government years to achieve. Burns thinks an immediate audit to examine JHA compliance in running its current program is the more prudent, logical and expeditious path to documenting any abuse and resolving any related problems.

“This situation cries out for attention from the investigative experts at HUD’s Office of Inspector General. The Johnstown Housing Authority doesn’t and shouldn’t exist to be a feeder system for public housing in Philadelphia – so why not start with verifying that all tenants, no matter where they are from, meet HUD’s eligibility requirements?” Burns said.

“I can assure HUD that this issue is on a lot of people’s minds, which I found out while extensively canvassing the city during the summer. If our federal elected officials would ask around, they’d find the same concerns I did. This situation cannot be ignored.”