The Housing Commission will present a plan today to convert its 1,366 public housing units to normal rental properties because of funding restrictions in the federal housing program.

While environmentalists cheered President Bush’s plans for reducing global warming contributors in the State of the Union address last week, housing advocates were disheartened by his failing to mention a nationwide affordable housing crisis. Federal funding for the public housing program has been restricted to 78 percent of what is needed, said Erika Rooks, spokeswoman for the San Diego Housing Commission. Continuing to operate the program with such restricted funding would present “serious financial consequences” to the agency, Rooks said.

The funding shortfall has led to layoffs and severe restrictions in services in other cities. Click here to read about layoffs among Pittsburgh’s housing workers.

If the Housing Commission’s plan is accepted, the agency will file a request with the federal Housing and Urban Development department. That request will propose that the units currently operated as public housing (units owned by the government, which charge 30 percent of the tenant’s income for rent) will be converted to Section 8 rental units, doubling the number of Section 8 vouchers allocated to San Diego renters. The Section 8 program draws funding from a separate program in the federal government. As such, residents will not be relocated and their rents won’t be raised under the re-designation, Rooks said. And the Housing Commission could use the revenue stream of the rental units to create new affordable housing for the city.

Check back for an update on the meeting today. The presentation before the city’s Housing Authority will take place today at 2:00 p.m. in the council chambers at 202 C Street.

KELLY BENNETT

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