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Housing officials feel funding pinch

June 13, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Funding cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have trickled down to Hagerstown and Washington County, local housing authority officials said last week.

HUD's Office of Public Affairs announced June 5 that 3,145 public housing agencies across the country would receive more than $2.2 billion in federal funding for capital projects.

The list includes $1,491,729 for the Hagerstown Housing Authority and $97,649 for the Housing Authority of Washington County.

The amount Hagerstown Housing Authority is getting is nearly 10 percent less than last year, said Ron Nair, the authority's grants coordinator.

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For Washington County's housing authority, this year's amount is about 13 percent less than last year, according to figures Executive Director Richard Willson provided.

Willson said Washington County's share has decreased since 1999.

HUD spokeswoman Donna White said there are two pools of money. One is for capital projects, the other is for operating expenses.

Money is distributed by a formula based on factors such as the size of the authority and the number of units it manages, White said.

Nair said the Hagerstown Housing Authority will use its capital-fund HUD money to modernize and perform maintenance at its properties.

A portion will go to resident and youth programs, including homework clubs and Character Counts, he said.

Nair said the Hagerstown Housing Authority manages 1,260 lower-income housing units, of which 1,120 are public and 140 are not.

The authority plans to use $90,000 of its capital-fund money to help plan the construction of a 60-unit apartment building on Baltimore Street, near Potomac Towers.

The building is expected to be completed next year, he said.

The Housing Authority of Washington County has two projects in mind for its capital-fund money, Willson said.

It will be adding heat pumps at Park View Knolls in Williamsport and Blue Mountain Estates in Smithsburg, each of which has 28 units. The pumps will give the units air conditioning in the summer, he said.

The second project is replacing windows at Blue Mountain Estates.

The housing authority expects to scale down its original plans for both projects because of the cut in HUD funding, Willson said.

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