GHA considers agency for Sec. 8 program

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Housing Authority is looking at possibly renewing a contract with a Saratoga Springs-based agency that administers their Section 8 housing voucher program.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the board of commissioners had James E. Mastrianni of JEM Inc. come to the board to speak with them about the program and what his agency does.

Interim Executive Director Daniel Towne said the Section 8 Housing voucher program has been operating in the city for more than 30 years.

“It is a program that the Gloversville Housing Authority [has to] assist low/moderate income families with their rental assistance. But those people reside in private residences,” Towne said.

Towne said the Section 8 Housing Choice voucher program is almost as big as the public housing program.

Mastrianni said his agency administers affordable housing in 11 counties.

Mastrianni said the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher allows participants to go into the private market and rent a property, with the subsidy paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. The program is 100 percent subsidized by HUD. He said the average subsidy is around $328 a month.

“It allows people to choose the housing that they want, that best fits the needs,” he said.

JEM additionally administers two Family Self Sufficiency programs for the GHA — one for those in private housing and one for those in public housing. Mastrianni said these programs have been in the city for around 15 years.

He said the programs work with participants “to assess what their barriers are to self sufficiency.” Participants enter into a five year contract and work with an action plan.

Participants also get referrals to other service providers in the area, including those for mental health or domestic violence. Job training is a part of the FSS as well, since the goal is to increase the earned income of those participating.

“As their income increases, their subsidy naturally decreases,” Mastrianni said. “That is [an incentive] for folks to move out of assisted living.”

An escrow account is created for participants where the difference between what they were getting in assistance when they start and where they are at each step, which earns interest.

“You can see you have assets that are increasing,” Mastrianni said.

Participants additionally get personal budget training to help grow their savings.

“They also learn to treat their household like a small business and understand where their money is going,” Mastrianni said.

If the participant completes the program over the course of the five year period, they get to access the escrow account. Just about the only time they an use it during the interim is for transportation needs.

Mastrianni said funding for these two programs are from the Housing Assistance Payment program, which funds the subsidy; the administrative fees from HUD; and the FSS coordinator money.

Over the years of the FSS program, $150,000 has been put into escrow accounts.

Mastrianni said most who graduate from the program are no longer eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but some — those with larger families — sometimes are still get TANF.

Mastrianni said the contract between JEM Inc. and the GHA expires this month. He said that until a new contract is signed his agency will continue to do the work.

“We have been working together since 1984, I am not worried about this,” he said.

Kerry Minor can be reached at