nbc10 investigators

Pa. Legislators Want to Change Housing Loophole Following NBC10 Report

The NBC10 Investigators discovered a loophole that allows people to get Section 8 housing in Philly in the federal housing system, delaying the housing of Philly residents who have waited years for the same opportunity. After seeing our initial report, state legislators now say they want a change in the system.

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Pennsylvania Senator Wayne Langerholc Jr. (R., Bedford, Cambria) wants to have some limits on what type of criminal records people have when they are allowed into public housing- particularly in Cambria County. 

And State Rep. Jim Rigby (R., Cambria, Somerset) is looking into reducing the number of public housing units in Johnstown. 

This comes following an NBC10 investigators report that found people from Philly were moving to Johnstown, into public housing there, and becoming a resident, which qualified them for a Housing Choice Voucher. 

They then can take that voucher anywhere in the country and move into government-subsidized housing. That process is called “Portability.” Hundreds of people have used it to move into Philly subsidized housing, avoiding the years-long and closed waitlist. 

 “The story that you ran first, you know, this portability, they're finding a loophole that's enabling them to essentially game the system,” Langerholc said. 

Langerholc, who is a former assistant district attorney, said some of the Philadelphians moving to Johnstown for the public housing and voucher have criminal records. He thinks he can change that via state law. 

“How they deal with certain individuals with respect to criminal violations,” Langerholc said. “Those are things that we can work on in conjunction with our county district attorney as well as on the state level.” 

But Mike Alberts, who heads the Johnstown Housing Authority, said he would rather have state help on the funding side. 

Since the NBC10 Investigators started working on the housing loophole story, the Philadelphia Housing Authority has gone from paying for the people moving from Johnstown to Philly -- to now billing Johnstown for those vouchers. 

“We're paying two to three times more than what it would cost us to pay for the rental assistance payment for a family here in Cambria County,” Alberts said. 

But the state legislators in his area said his agency has too many vouchers and too many public housing units for a declining population. 

As for what HUD plans to do, if anything, it remains unclear. The agency didn’t respond to a request seeking comment. 

Alberts did say that the regional office for HUD reached out to him following the story to learn more about his agency’s particular challenges when it comes to porting. 

Even though they are aware of this, they're using the published report as a springboard to have further discussions with headquarters in D.C.,” he said.

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