Housing program helps pay rent

About $500,000 has been distributed to help the elderly, poor and disabled pay their rent in John

Categories: Schenectady County

About $500,000 has been distributed to help the elderly, poor and disabled pay their rent in Johnstown since 2006, according to the president of the company that handles the city’s Section 8 rental assistance program.

James E. Mastrianni, the president of Joseph E. Mastrianni Inc., told members of the city Common Council recently that the company also is handling a new program that helps Section 8 recipients improve their quality of life and become self-sufficient.

He said that program is off to a modest start with 13 participants. The city Section 8 program helps 125 individuals and families, Mastrianni said.

He also said there are 81 names on a waiting list.

The average income of people receiving assistance is $901 a month while the average subsidy — calculated by the government as the difference between 30 percent of an applicant’s income and the fair-market rent — is $310.

Mastrianni, who took over the Schenectady company from his father about a year ago, said it runs similar programs in about 20 Capital Region communities.

In Johnstown, he said, the company has run into some landlords who have taken issue with federal lead-paint regulations.

If a home was built before 1978 and is the residence of a child under age 6, the building has to be tested and cleared of any lead paint.

“We’ve had some differences with some landlords. But we hang our hat on the regulations,” Mastrianni said, and noted that to bend the rules would open up the landlord and the city to liability.

Council members are going to review the company’s annual report and are expected to endorse the 2008 program at their first February meeting.

“From my perspective, the program seems to be working very well,” Mayor Sarah Slingerland said, a statement echoed by Treasurer Mike Gifford, who is the city’s liaison to Mastrianni.

On a related topic, Community Heritage Corp. Executive Director David Henderson briefed the council on the nonprofit’s work preparing a grant application for $400,000 to help fix up substandard housing owned by low-income applicants.

He said the grants are competitive, with 67 of 175 applications approved in the last round.

The application is due April 21 and winners are typically announced in August or September. The money, if awarded, would likely be available early in 2009, Henderson said.

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