City housing agency pondering layoffs


The city's housing authority is considering laying off workers and making other cutbacks to adjust to a $2 million cutback in federal money.

Yesterday, Housing Authority Executive Director Robert W. Hearn said the $2 million shortage is 5 percent of $40 million the city needs to adequately run Baltimore's public housing program, which provides 18,200 homes for 40,000 people.

Hearn said the housing authority is feeling the pinch of a nationwide cut in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"We can anticipate layoffs," said Hearn in explaining how the housing authority will deal with the money shortage.

He also said the housing authority may have to reduce its security force in crime-ridden family high-rise projects and reduce the amount of money it spends to make repairs to buildings.

"Civilian" security workers who work without uniforms and monitor security systems in the family high-rise projects might be taken off duty, leaving buildings without security workers for part of the day, he said.

The housing authority's budget has also been stretched by a 35 percent increase in cost of health benefits to employees.

Public housing is financed by a combination of an annual federal subsidy and rents from tenants. Rents must be maintained at 30 percent of a tenant's income, according to federal regulations. No city funds are involved.

Deputy housing commissioner John McCauley said HUD has not formally informed Baltimore's housing authority of the cutback, which technically began July 1, but the city has been told informally.

Hearn said he did not know when he would decide on how to carry out the reductions, but expects to decide soon.

McCauley said the authority had a substantial cutback in federal money last year.

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