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Senate Panel Hears Testimony on Improving Housing Authority Operations

Senate Panel Hears Testimony on Improving Housing Authority Operations

The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee today held a public hearing today in Harrisburg to examine housing authorities operation and look for ways to improve the 53-year-old state Housing Authorities Act.

Committee Chair Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) said his committee wants to look at how authorities are operated, particularly after revelations of widespread fraud and corruption at the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA).

Yaw said troubles at the PHA have prompted calls for change in the Housing Law – and he wants to hear what improvements could be helpful to the management of housing authorities across the state.

“Our goals is to make the changes necessary to address the problems discovered at PHA and move the authority forward but at the same time we don’t want to implement new procedures or requirements that could be detrimental to housing authorities that are operating successfully,” Yaw said.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told the committee that he would like to see the appointment and governance structure changed so that he can make appointments to the housing authority directly and ensure that they answer to the mayor.

He said the housing authority board’s lack of accountability to the Mayor’s Office led to many of the problems that are just now being investigated.

Yaw said other testifiers suggested that Pennsylvania establish a certification process for board members to define roles and responsibilities, similar to those that have been adopted by other states.

And others who came before the committee said that their housing authorities worked well with their appointing municipalities bodies while serving the public as a separate and autonomous agency.

“Before we make legislative changes, it is important for us to look at the operation of authorities across the state and determine what is working well and where we can make improvements,” Yaw said. “The overall goal is to foster open communication between government agencies and boards and to ensure that agencies are held accountable for their actions.”

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