Section 8 Programs May Merge

Though it’s difficult to find a silver lining in today’s economy, one benefit is that state and county governments are learning how to function more efficiently. They are merging departments, getting rid of unneeded programs and positions, and learning to do the same work with less of our tax money. Recently, two affordable housing organizations in Tennessee merged, in order to eliminate redundancies and capitalize on each organization’s strengths. Similarly, in an effort to streamline their Section 8 programs, two Florida agencies are also considering a merge.

Similar to Tennessee, Tampa city and Hillsborough County in Florida both have their own public housing agencies (PHAs), each of which administers a separate Section 8 housing program. But Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill believes it makes more sense for the two agencies to combine their efforts – a move that would effectively dissolve the Hillsborough authority and centralize all Section 8 activities in Tampa. From a strictly logistical perspective, the move makes sense, as Tampa is the county seat for Hillsborough, and the location for both public housing offices.

As a result, neither current nor future public housing residents would experience much inconvenience in terms of traveling to the office. Hillsborough currently works with just over 2,000 families who use Section 8 vouchers to subsidize their rent, and Tampa works with about 5,000 families. Tampa Housing Authority chief executive and president Jerome Ryans agrees with Merrill and is willing to help craft an agreement. In order for the authorities to merge into one, they have to develop a transfer agreement that details how the laid off employees will be handled and how the two agencies will go about merging their extensive Section 8 waiting lists. Once the agreement is drafted, it has to be approved by the Housing Authority Board and the County Commission. Final approval rests with the federal government.

Merrill believes the merge would save Hillsborough County about $250,000 a year in salaries and other expenditures. Despite the potential savings, some members of both the Commission and the Housing Authority have reservations. They fear Tampa County employees will be overloaded, unable to keep up with the sudden increase in families, and that the quality of service will suffer. However, the unfortunate reality is that neither the state, the county, nor the city, can afford to operate duplicate or redundant programs. The existence of two housing authorities in the same city, providing the same services, is simply not sustainable in the current economic climate. Proponents of the plan are working to draft an agreement that can be executed before the start of the fiscal year on October 1st. If Tennessee and Florida succeed in merging housing responsibilities, with minimal interruption or inconvenience on the part of residents, other counties and cities may take notice and try to replicate the mergers within their own agencies. Want to get a free program guide of Sean Carpenter’s top 8 favorite government programs for real estate developers and investors? Request your free program guide today at:

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