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Katrina victims to get public housing here

The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority will begin placing Hurricane Katrina victims in vacant housing as early as next week.

The board of commissioners approved top priority Thursday for victims of the disaster who had been living in public housing.

The action followed a federal mandate requiring housing agencies across the country to place the evacuees at the top of waiting lists. The measure most likely will apply to victims of Hurricane Rita, as well, if that storm is declared a disaster, said Susan M. Grzechowiak, the housing authority's director of management.

"We're processing paperwork, and the vacancies department is getting the units ready," she said.

Authority officials already have contacted nine potential tenants. Two have been approved and are expected to move into the Lyndon B. Johnson Towers and the Ferry-Grider complex next week.

Officials are awaiting information on another 18 potential tenants. Under federal Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines, the Red Cross must certify evacuees for the program.

"Once the Red Cross gives us the names, we'll start contacting them by phone or mail to tell them 'We're ready. Come on down,' " Grzechowiak said.

The new tenants will have to provide only Social Security documentation, which they can get from the downtown Buffalo office, within 90 days of being housed. This system avoids fraud, officials said.

e-mail: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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