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Democrats cave-in to another round of sequestration budget cuts
by Lynda Carson ( tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com )
Friday Sep 27th, 2013 11:53 PM
Low-income Section 8 housing voucher holders in the Bay Area and all across the nation are facing massive rent increases, are losing their Section 8 housing vouchers, and are facing homelessness as a direct result!
Democrats cave-in to another round of sequestration budget cuts

By Lynda Carson - September 27, 2013

Oakland - The attack on low-income families in the Section 8 voucher program (Housing Choice Voucher Program) in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and across the nation intensified today when the U.S. Senate voted to continue with the catastrophic across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration with their vote for the Reid-Mikulski amendment #1974 to H.J.Res.59.

Low-income families in the Section 8 voucher program pay 30 to 40 percent of their income in rent each month, and the rest of the rent is paid to the landlord by the federal program. Presently tens of thousands of low-income Section 8 voucher holders all across the nation are facing massive rent increases, are losing their Section 8 housing vouchers, and are facing homelessness as a direct result.

The latest budget battle in Congress over the Continuing Resolution known as H.J.Res. 59 to temporarily fund the federal government through mid-November or mid-December to avoid a government shut-down, has already resulted in the Democrats caving in to Republican demands to allow another round of sequestration across-the-board budget cuts to take effect on Tuesday October 1st. The massive across-the-board budget cuts will also affect various federal programs and agencies all across the nation, including the military.

This means that $85 billion in sequestration budget cuts that took effect on March 1, 2013 are not being rescinded, resulting in around 140,000 low-income households across the nation that have lost their federal housing assistance. These low-income families may have faced eviction from their housing, and are being dumped on to the cold hearted streets of America in the process.

Making matters worse, the next round of sequestration budget cuts beginning in October for FY 2014, may result in tens of thousands more low-income families that will also be facing homelessness as a direct result of the latest political deals being made by lawmakers, unless the mean spirited budget cuts are stopped at a future date.

In a newsletter called "Our Voice" (Summer/Fall edition) warning the residents in Oakland's public housing about the on-going catastrophic budget cuts, the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) states that it believes that the impact of the sequestration budget cuts that went in to effect on March 1, have already resulted in the loss of $2.1 million in funding for it's operations during FY 2013. The OHA also believes that it will lose an additional $9.1 million in funding to it's operations during FY 2014, when the next round of sequestration budget cuts go into effect.

The OHA further states that the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program where OHA uses its MTW funding flexibility to assist Section 8 households, and support Police Services, resident programs, administration, and boutique programs such as the Sponsor-based Housing Assistance Program, the sequestration impact is more significant.

This means that because the OHA is a demonstration MTW Housing Authority, Section 8 voucher holders in Oakland may face an even greater risk because the OHA has been using funding from the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program to fund it's pet projects. This may include Section 8 voucher funds being used for so-called affordable housing projects, Police Services, resident programs, administration, and boutique programs such as the Sponsor-based Housing Assistance Program. Out of around 3,000 Public Housing Authorities across the nation the OHA is one of only 33 "Moving-To-Work" (MTW) housing authorities that do not have to abide by federal regulations that prohibit funding for public housing, or funding for the Section 8 voucher program (Housing Choice Voucher Program) to be used for any other purposes.

In recent months, the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) notified 14 households that their Section 8 housing choice vouchers have been suspended until further notice. The BHA also served notice to around 200 additional households in the final stages of being eligible to receive Section 8 vouchers, that their applications for vouchers have also been suspended until further notice.

With $1.7 million in budget cuts hitting the BHA in 2013 plus an additional loss of $386,000 in administrative fees to run it's housing programs, the BHA also estimates that an additional 74 households may lose their Section 8 housing vouchers during 2014.

The poor are so desperate in Sacramento, California, Officials at the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) are warning people to beware of a scam that promises a housing voucher in return for depositing money into a Green.Dot account. People do not have to make a deposit to receive a Section 8 voucher from a housing authority. The Section 8 voucher program in Sacramento was hit with a devastating $9.1 million budget cut as of March 1, 2013 placing 1,700 families at risk of losing their vouchers. An additional cut of $2.6 million to administer the Section 8 voucher program has resulted in fewer staff, and fewer days that the SHRA office is open during 2013. The SHRA also faced a $1.2 million cut to it's Conventional Public Housing Program, but the residents are not at risk of losing their housing because the residential housing units are owned by the agency.

The So-Called Affordable Housing Industry Is Being Protected By HUD

Residents in the Section 8 Project-Based Voucher Program in so-called affordable housing projects in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and other cities and counties across the nation are safe for the moment because of secret deals, waivers and exemptions that have been applied for to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), by Public Housing Authorities. The Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers belong to the residential units in the so-called affordable housing projects, rather than belonging to the poor that come and go from the housing units. Public Housing Authorities are allowed to grab 20 percent of their Section 8 vouchers that were meant to assist the poor, and convert them into Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers that are being granted to so-called affordable housing developers to fund their projects.

The result of the secret deals, waivers and exemptions mean that the brunt of sequestration cuts to HUD's housing assistance programs fall directly on to the backs of the poor, elderly and disabled that have moveable Section 8 vouchers, rather than the so-called affordable housing industry that uses Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers to fund their projects. The budget cuts are not being spread fairly as a direct result, and it is a very unfair system at the moment that protects wealthy so-called affordable housing developers and their projects, at the expense of low-income Section 8 voucher holders facing massive rent increases, or the loss of their Section 8 housing vouchers.

In Santa Clara County, during August of 2013, Section 8 voucher holders have already been hit with massive rent increases due to the sequestration budget cuts, raising the rents on some of the low-income households by as much as $990.00 a month, and more. Many of the low-income tenants are now facing homelessness and are losing their vouchers, unless they can find cheaper places to move into.

In Los Angeles, Section 8 tenants are taking a beating. There are around 24,000 low-income families in the Section 8 voucher program who are facing massive rent increases by as much as $200.00 per month, and they are only around half of the tenants in the Section 8 program in that city.

Since March 1, 2013 the sequestration budget cuts have reduced the Marin Housing Authority (MHA) budget for Section 8 housing assistance payments from $27.8 million to $25.1 million, placing around 2,100 low-income households at risk because of the nearly $3 million in budget cuts. Many low-income tenants are now facing massive rent increases, and may lose their vouchers as a result.

With regards to budget cuts for some other local housing authorities during 2013, it was also reported that the Santa Clara Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $21 million. The San Francisco Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $9.4 million. The Contra Costa County Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $7.2 million. The San Mateo County Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $3.6 million, plus the Alameda County Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $5.8 million.

Those most threatened by the sequestration budget cuts are the people least able to survive without HUD's housing assistance programs. According to the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), 303,499 seniors rely on Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers for affordable housing. Section 8 housing is also home to 458,124 households with disabled family members. And 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.

The next round of sequestration budget cuts beginning October 1, 2013 in addition to the budget cuts that have already occurred since March 1, 2013 will cause serious damage to the nation's federal housing assistance programs. The poor, elderly, and disabled have been tossed under the bus by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Watching what the Democrats do, rather than listening to what they say, reveals that time and again they double-cross the poor, over and over again.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com