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Southeast : Housing Subsidy Plan Suspended

A pilot project designed to speed housing credits to poor Long Beach residents was suspended Monday by the city’s Housing Authority Commission.

The commission--which includes the entire City Council--voted 8 to 3 to halt and review the so-called Blitz project. The program had been criticized recently by residents and city housing staff who said officials had relaxed screenings of residents who apply for federal rent subsidies.

The Blitz program was created last summer to help speed along a backlog of nearly 1,000 applications for low-income housing subsidies. With the project now on hold, the review process will take longer.

Commissioner Alan Lowenthal suggested suspending the project because, he said, it had skirted city housing policies without the commission’s approval.

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Community development director Susan Shick, who oversees the housing authority, acknowledged that the Blitz program was relying more heavily than before on mail and telephone correspondence as workers reviewed tenant applications. But she said applicants still must meet city workers face to face before they receive a subsidy check.

“We wanted to expedite and serve people quicker than we normally would have been able to,” Shick said, adding that the program had been in place on a limited, experimental basis.

Commissioner Jenny Oropeza said she may yet support the Blitz approach if it is found to be both efficient and vigilant against fraud.

“We always need to come up with ways to do things faster and more efficiently,” she said.

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