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In a sign that Baltimore's embattled housing authority is turning things around, the agency has been accepted into Moving to Work, a federal program that gives local housing agencies wider management leeway. Currently in place in 23 cities, Moving to Work allows housing agencies flexibility to create solutions specific to their communities.
The Baltimore agency, which oversees $290 million in federal housing assistance, says it will demolish hundreds of vacant public housing units to free up money for new development and will require that tenants certify their income once every two years instead of annually, thereby reducing paperwork for residents and caseworkers.
For its Section 8 rent subsidies--a program that the housing authority had been accused of mismanaging--the agency will now require that all voucher recipients live within the city. In the past, recipients could take the subsidy to other counties and out of state.
For years, Baltimore had applied to the program but was passed over by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Right or wrong, HUD had some concerns about problems this administration inherited," says Paul T. Graziano, Baltimore's housing commissioner. "HUD wanted to make sure we cleaned up, and obviously by our admission to the program, they are confident we've done that."
Critics of the program are worried Baltimore will use its management freedoms to shift resources away from the lowest-income families. But Graziano says that won't happen. "We will continue to target those with the greatest need, we won't put term limits on assistance, and there will be no mandatory work requirement."
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