Policy makers leave HUD's housing programs at risk
By Lynda Carson -- January 24, 2013
Oakland -- The Oakland Housing Authority administers around 13,259 Section 8 voucher units in Oakland, owns and operates around 3,300 conventional public housing units, and assists around 10% of Oakland's low-income families with their housing needs.
Additionally, San Francisco has around 8,611 section 8 units. Berkeley has around 1,939 section 8 units. The Housing Authority of Alameda County administers around 6,097 section 8 units. Richmond has around 1,750 section 8 units. Marin County has around 2,145 section 8 units, and Contra Costa County Housing Aurhority administers around 6,763 section 8 units.
Low-income tenants in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program pay 30 to 40 percent of their monthly income for rent, and the rest of the rent is paid to the landlord through the voucher from the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.
In what appears to be a very grim situation for low-income renters across the nation, it appears that massive spending cuts to the nation's federal housing programs that are scheduled to go into effect on March 1, 2013, continue to threaten thousands of low-income families in Oakland and other Bay Area cities with higher rent increases. Additionally, the huge spending cuts may result in the loss of housing vouchers for several hundred thousand or more low-income families all across the nation.
On Wednesday January 23, the Washington Post reported that top leaders in both major political parties predicted that massive across-the-board spending cuts to the nation's domestic programs and the pentagon known as "sequestration" will go into effect on March 1, as scheduled. At least temporarily, according to the report.
According to the article, "It's going to happen," said Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, saying that Republicans in both chambers are determined to allow $1.2 trillion in spending cuts to occur during the next decade.
The latest deals in Washington that were agreed upon by the Democrats and Republicans since late December to avoid a fight over the nation's debt ceiling and to avoid going over the so-called "fiscal cliff" resulted in more than 80% of the Bush era tax cuts permanently remaining in effect, and leaves around $110 billion in automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to go into effect on March 1. Additional spending cuts of around $110 billion per year are also scheduled to go into effect during the next ten years.
The catastrophic spending cuts scheduled to occur on March 1, threaten many of the nation's domestic anti-poverty programs including the nation's federal housing programs, pitting the needs of the elderly, disabled and the poor against the needs of the over bloated pentagon/military budgets, and their wealthy contractors.
As a direct result of the latest so-called fiscal cliff deal, the spending cuts to the nation's housing programs that are to go into effect threaten at least 250,000 voucher holders across the nation with eviction, if the spending cuts go into effect on March 1, as scheduled.
Additionally, the spending cuts also threaten tens of thousands of low-income renters that reside in so-called affordable housing developments, owned and operated by local nonprofit housing developers in the Bay Area, and across the nation.
The scheduled catastrophic spending cuts threaten the nation's federal housing programs of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including $1.53 billion in spending cuts from HUD’s Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance (Housing Choice Voucher Program), $772 million in Section 8 project-based rental assistance, $325 million from the public housing operating fund, including an additional cut of $154 million from public housing capital funds, $31 million from elderly senior housing, $14 million from housing for people with disabilities, $27 million from housing for people with AIDS, plus $74 million from the USDA's Rural Housing program, and $156 million from homeless assistance grants.
The spending cuts will also affect local housing programs in the cities of Berkeley, San Francisco, Alameda, Richmond, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, and throughout California.
The City of Los Angeles faces a massive $48 million spending cut to their Section 8 housing voucher program. According to the LA Times, in a report submitted to Mayor Antonio Villarigosa on January 3, City Administrative Officer of Los Angeles, Miguel Santana, stated that an estimated 15,000 families that rely on housing vouchers would on average see their rent expenses increase by $116 per month if Congress fails to block the automatic across-the-board spending cuts scheduled for March 1.
Additionally, the Housing Authority of Los Angeles County seeks HUD approval to terminate rental assistance for 1,800 families if the spending cuts take place, or to raise the rents on around 21,132 households.
In Sacramento, according to the web site for the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, if the spending cuts take effect they will have to take back around 950 vouchers from households in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.
More than 900 organizations nationwide have spoken out against the massive spending cuts scheduled to take place. In a call to action, activists continue to urge low-income families in the federally subsidized housing programs to immediately contact their representatives, and to urge the Obama administration and Congress to stop the automatic spending cuts scheduled to go into effect on March 1, that could result in the eviction of 250,000 voucher holders in HUD housing programs.
Low-income families are being urged to demand that all of HUD's housing assistance programs must remain fully funded to cover the costs of the housing needs for everyone in those programs.
These massive cutbacks in the nation's housing programs may never be imposed if Congress and the Obama Administration stop the scheduled spending cuts. But if the cuts do occur, elderly, disabled and many poor low-income families will suffer great harm and will face homelessness as a direct result. The scheduled 8.2 percent spending cuts would damage anti-poverty programs, homeless programs, public housing and Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly called Section 8 vouchers).
In their own assessment of the dire situation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 250,000 voucher holders will lose their housing if sequestration (spending cuts) takes effect, resulting in nearly one million people losing their federal housing assistance and being placed at risk of homelessness.
Additionally, Rep. Dick Norman, Democrat from Washington state says, "Cuts to the Homeless Assistant Grant account would result in approximately 100,000 more people on the streets if the spending cuts goes into effect."
Because the spending cuts are still scheduled to go into effect, HUD has been notifying cities and Public Housing Authorities across the nation that they may face huge spending cuts to their housing assistance programs, if the scheduled spending cuts are not stopped by Congress and the Obama Administration before March 1.
As for those that are being affected by the spending cuts scheduled to go into effect on March 1, according to the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), about 303,499 seniors rely on Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers for affordable housing. Also, Section 8 housing is home to 458,124 households with one or more disabled family member. In addition, 59 percent of Section 8 households are families with children (more than 2,357,977 children in total), with an average annual family income of $11,049.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org