York Housing Authority director to step down

Sean Philip Cotter

York Housing Authority executive director Craig Zumbrun will step down from his position next month.

Zumbrun, a Littlestown native who's served in that role for more than two years and has been with the authority for nine years, is headed to Vermont, where he'll work a similar position in Burlington.

His last day at work in York is April 8.

The authority's a city government body, with a board of commissioners appointed by the mayor with the consent of York City Council. It manages all the public housing and Section 8 housing in the city, and does the same for the county under an agreement that dates back to the 1970s.

About $6 million of the organization's $18.5 million annual budget comes from the federal Department of Urban Development, Zumbrun said. The rest is largely funded by the rent from the 1,000-plus public housing units the authority owns and operates. More than half of those are in the city.

Zumbrun said there's not enough affordable housing in the area.

"The pressure, the demand for affordable housing is very intense here in York," he said, adding much of that has come from the fact that state contribution to authorities such as his has dropped precipitously in the past 20 years.

"Operating subsidies have dropped by 20 percent while other costs gone up by the same amount."

He said it could take seven years for a family looking for a three-bedroom public-housing unit to get into one. The rent in public housing is 30 percent of a renter's income.

The authority also manages the Section 8 housing subsidy program, through which they distribute more than 1,300 vouchers, he said. There's very high demand for that, too — the organization recently opened it up to applicants for the first time in five years, and received 4,000 applicants for about 180 vouchers, he said.

He said the need has increased in York County because the population of poor people has risen, and it's a relatively older county, so there's many more seniors on fixed incomes than there used to be.

The authority also runs tax-rebate programs for builders, aimed at creating affordable housing where the renters aren't being subsidized. One such project was the Homes at Thackston Park, a York City building project that he said created some nice, cheap homes. Zumbrun said he spearheaded that project, and likes how it turned out.

"I'm very proud of that development," he said.

He'd like to see his successor to push for something he's been advocating for for about a year and a half: reaching a deal with the county government to make the organization a "true city-county authority," which doesn't exist right now, he said.

This would mean a bigger board with both city and county representatives on it, rather than just city folk, as comprise it now, he said. It would also likely unlock some resources for the organization it doesn't have access to as merely a city entity, he said.

Marion Oberdick, the chair of the authority's board of commissioners, said the organization is going to take this time after Zumbrun steps down to reassess how the organization is doing, and what its priorities are.

"It gives us a window to ask a lot of questions about ourself," she said.

She said they're not going to rush into appointing a new executive director.

"We’re not going to go at this with the attitude of something’s better than nothing," said Oberdick, senior appraiser for Weinstein Reality Consultants in York City.

She said these years when Zumbrun has been in charge have been difficult thanks to HUD's increasing demands and decreasing monetary contributions..

"The timing for anybody working in public housing right now is extremely challenging," she said.

Craig Zumbrun

Zumbrun said he'll miss how hardworking the housing authority employees are, often putting in far above and beyond the salaried hours they mark down at the end of the week.

"The people involved are really, really committed," he said. "It’s a tremendously sad thing to leave the family of tenants and workers."

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.