Affordable Housing Scarce In Luzerne County

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KINGSTON -- The search for affordable housing in Luzerne County has become an even tougher challenge for senior citizens and struggling families.

Nearly 1,000 people applied for Section 8 assistance this month and the waiting list to be considered could take two years.

Rose and Mark Falkenstein say they have been turning to St. Vincent De Paul's soup kitchen in Wilkes-Barre for lunch with their 2-year-old son nearly every day. The couple say they lost their jobs and have been staying at shelters for more than a year, waiting to hear if they'll be moved up on the waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance.

Section 8 housing assistance is a federal program to help low income people pay for housing.

"With the amount of money that people make and everything, you can barely make rent. And then let alone the rest of your bills. It's pretty

The waiting room at the Luzerne County Housing Authority in Kingston was empty Wednesday, but last week it was packed. 966 people applied for Section 8 rental assistance.

"Unfortunately the information that we're getting on finances from HUD seems to indicate that we will not be able to bring any of those people in this fiscal year, and probably most likely, have to wean some people off our program," said David Fagula, executive director of the Luzerne County Housing Authority.

Fagula says it will cost the authority $5.7 million for the 1,000 families they're already helping with rental subsidy this year. They're only expected to get $5.5 million from the federal government.

More than 80 families could lose their Section 8 assistance.

Fagula says if rules are broken or crimes are committed inside Section 8 housing, tenants will be evicted to make room for families in need. But that process can take several months.

"There's a lot of people that are just living off of other people and it messes it up for the people that really do need help. In the meantime, we're out here, we're trying to fend for ourselves, trying to get work," said Mark Falkenstein.

"If someone has been involved in crime or drug crimes, they wouldn't be eligible for the program. So we do those checks; people fall through the cracks," said Fagula.

Housing Authority employees are filing applications for Section 8 assistance but Fagula says it could take more than a year before people will find out if they will qualify for help in the future.