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ICYMI: The Sequester and the Homeless

Posted March 26, 2014

Consequences from sequestration continue to reverberate even after December’s budget deal.  The previous year’s cuts have deepened and prolonged our nation’s rental affordability housing crisis, a crisis that is described by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan as the worst our country has known.

On Sunday the New York Times Editorial Board ran a piece highlighting the impact the sequester continues to have on millions of Americans:

The sequester seriously damaged the Section 8 housing program, which subsidizes rents for more than two million of the nation’s poorest families. Local housing authorities reacted to the across-the-board cuts by tightening the screws on this voucher program. They ceased to issue new vouchers that would ordinarily have gone to homeless or needy families and even recalled vouchers that had been issued but had not yet been committed to landlords.

An analysis released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that, as of December, there were 70,000 fewer low-income families using vouchers to rent private housing than there were a year earlier…

The drop in the number of vouchers in circulation works against the program; Congress generally funds the program based on the number of vouchers in service the previous year.

The December budget deal that ended sequestration will allow housing agencies to replace less than half of the 70,000 vouchers lost in 2013. Given the pressing need, it should come up with the money to restore the rest.

The sequester also hurt the long-neglected public developments that house about 1.1 million of the country’s most vulnerable families. These developments had been staggering along under ever-shrinking operating budgets — and a $26 billion backlog in repairs — even before the sequester.

When further cuts came along, three quarters of state and local housing agencies reacted by cutting the number of families served, letting waiting lists grow and leaving damaged apartments vacant rather than repairing them.

The editorial continues to detail the cuts made to homeless assistance grants which have led to the removal of over 60,000 formerly homeless persons from housing and emergency shelter programs.  Read the full article online here (see also in PDF).


Gimme Shelter: In Vermont, Sequestration Leads to Homelessness

Posted August 15, 2013

By Kevin J. Kelley, August 14, 2013

“A quiet crisis wrought by indiscriminate federal budget cuts may force more than 2000 low-income Vermonters from their homes by the end of the year.

Housing officials plan to remove 774 households from a program that subsidizes rents for many of the state’s poorest residents. The cuts have already affected hundreds of Vermonters who had been taking part in what’s known as the Section 8 voucher system. No one knows what’s become of many of the tenants who have already been turned out…”

Link to Full Seven Days Article

PDF of Full Seven Days Article




NPR – Sequester Uncertainty Surrounds Section 8 Housing Program

Posted April 10, 2013

Housing authorities nationwide are feeling the effects of sequestration and face serious cuts to the housing programs they administer.

By Kara Bradeisky. Reposted from NPR, April 8, 2013.

“‘The severity of the shortfall in voucher renewal funding caused by sequestration is unprecedented in the history of the program,’ Rice wrote in the report. ‘Facing such large shortfalls, agencies will be forced to take steps to reduce program costs quickly, even as they spend down reserves’…

Link to Full NPR Article 

View PDF of Full NPR Article


Paying rent: the ends don’t meet

Posted March 24, 2013

By Lisa McCormack. Reposted from the Stowe Reporter, March 21, 2013.

“A variety of economic struggles faced by many low-income Vermonters have exacerbated the housing crisis, said Alison Joyal, housing counselor and Lamoille service coordinator for the Central Vermont Community Action Council.

‘We have a perfect storm of incredibly high gas prices, high rents, fewer benefits and less employment,’ Joyal said. ‘People are choosing between paying for heating fuel and gasoline and paying rent, especially if they don’t live close to work…'”

Link to Full Stowe Reporter Article

View PDF of Full Stowe Reporter Article


Housing benefits slashed for hundreds of Vermonters

Posted March 15, 2013

By Jennifer Reading. Reposted from, March 14, 2013. 

Link to WCAX broadcast

“‘I checked a few places out there, but it’s the same old story,’ he said. ‘It all amounts to money.’

Something Killary doesn’t have much of. He lives paycheck to paycheck. And with no money in the bank, finding a decent apartment in Chittenden County was tough. And the Burlington Housing Authority says it’s about to get worse for Killary and other low-income Vermonters.

‘The fair market rents for 2013, they dropped drastically,’ said Claudia Donovan, the director of rental assistance at the Burlington Housing Authority.

Donovan says fair market rent is the amount the federal government says housing costs in the area.

In 2012, the feds said $896 would cover rent and utilities for a one-bedroom apartment in the greater Burlington area. This year that number dropped to $788. For families needing a three-bedroom, in 2012 the feds put the cost of rent and utilities at $1,439, but lowered that to $1,289 for 2013.

Donovan says these cuts impact how much the housing authority can offer Section 8 recipients. Typically rental assistance requires a client to contribute 30 percent of their income and the housing authority pays the rest. But the lower federal share is leaving a bigger bill for renters in the program.

‘If they can’t afford it they can be evicted,’ Donovan said. ‘They could become homeless. They may have to move in with relatives. So, it is a serious concern.’

The changes won’t go into effect for current Section 8 renters until Oct. 1. New participants and people moving will be affected immediately. Housing officials say negotiate with landlords, don’t move if you don’t have to and be willing to compromise.

‘I would have been in a tent, literally in a tent,’ Killary said.

Killary found an efficiency. It’s small and expensive, but it’s a roof overhead. Others who need help will not be as lucky. Sequestration is expected to take an additional toll on Section 8. The housing authority is preparing for a 6 percent funding cut, which means 100-150 people will lose their benefits.

‘It’s a heck of a way to run a business,’ Donovan said. ‘You don’t know how many people you can keep on the program, you don’t know where your funding is coming from, when it’s coming, if it’s coming and how much you’re going to receive. It’s a pretty dire thing.’

Housing authority officials say people caught abusing their benefits will be dropped first. In the past they’ve been able to give people second chances. There is currently a 5-7 year waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance, and until the sequester situation is resolved, the housing authority will not be giving out any new rental vouchers.”