City seeking to shorten public housing list


The Baltimore Housing Authority is considering a six-month moratorium on new applications for public housing so that officials can trim a waiting list bearing the names of nearly 31,000 families.

Some of these families have been on the list for more than a decade and may have been assigned housing, but their names may not have been removed.

The authority feels that with a shorter list it can move faster to house applicants, Bill Toohey, spokesman for the authority, said yesterday. The moratorium was proposed last week by the authority's commissioners.

The prospect of a moratorium does not please Shirley Smith, who has been on the waiting list since 1979.

She and one of her three children and two grandchildren live with Ms. Smith's sister-in-law in a three-bedroom apartment in East Baltimore.

"The last time I called, they told me they were going to get at me real soon," said Ms. Smith, who receives $294 a month in welfare payments. "But I don't know when. I need a place bad. It's too crowded here and I'm tired of living with other people."

Ms. Smith, 42, said she constantly calls the authority to inquire about her position on the waiting list.

Mr. Toohey said the authority receives an average of 300 calls a day, a heavy burden even with the help of electronic answering devices.

A moratorium could be forced because of a federal regulation that states that a public housing authority cannot accept more applications than it can process in a reasonable

period of time. "The need is there, there is a critical need," Mr. Toohey said. "But we need to get out from under the situation. There has not been a new public housing apartment built in Baltimore since 1976."

Mr. Toohey said a moratorium would give the authority a chance to review the waiting list for the 39 public housing complexes.

Some families on the list may have already been housed and their names may not have been removed from the list, he said.

A smaller list would allow the authority to move faster on assigning housing, Mr. Toohey said.

Applicants are given three complexes from which to choose a place to live.

But some such as Ms. Smith say they don't want to live in high-rise buildings because of the violent crime and drug activity. Applicants who decline all offers are moved to the end of the list.

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