Add those receiving housing aid to the long list of those who will feel the effects of the sequester.
Rob Dicke, director of Dane County Housing Authority, says his agency has felt the pinch, but so far it's been able to maintain full funding for Section 8 housing vouchers.
That could change. Dicke says the federal department that funds the authority, Housing and Urban Development, has been issuing funds not spent by the housing authority last year to cover the shortfall.
But that money will dry up in six months.
“We won’t deal with the shortfall by actually evicting people,” he says. “We’ll just deal with it by attrition.
He says about six to 10 people a month typically leave the program due to getting good jobs, getting evicted or dying. Those vouchers will simply not be reissued.
That means people on the Section 8 waiting list, which is 600 names long and has been closed since 2007, will have to keep on waiting.
“I’m not going to be able to serve them,” he says.
A lot of those on the list are elderly or disabled, so there’s little chance their need for help will go away.
“They’re not going to get a great new job and all of a sudden have a lot of resources,” he says.
Dane County's not alone, of course. Cuts to Section 8 housing are a nationwide issue. For instance, in New Orleans the housing authority recalled 700 vouchers it had already approved.
A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated that nationwide, 140,000 families could lose their rent assistance by next year because of the sequester.
Dicke says he’s already weathered substantial cuts, both in his agency's annual budget and from the sequester, which have caused the loss of three employees and the discontinuation of the homeownership program, which for 13 years provided low-income people outside Madison with loans for downpayments on homes.
The authority operates on funds tied to housing vouchers, which pay 60 cents on the dollar for low-income housing rent, with those receiving the vouchers making up the rest. The cost to the federal government is about $600 per voucher, or a total of about $600,000 for the 1,017 vouchers currently issued, says Dicke. Qualifying families make 80 percent of the area median income or less.
To administer the vouchers, the federal government had paid the housing authority $67.70 per voucher per month. But with earlier budget cuts and the cuts from the sequester that went into effect on March 1, that’s now down to $46.71. That’s a hit of $21,346 a month, Dicke says.
The sequester, the result of the federal budget impasse, imposes across-the-board cuts to governmental agencies. And there’s little chance that the partisan differences that led to the impasse will be resolved anytime soon.
In February, Dicke posted a blog saying that the cuts were equal to 60 housing vouchers.
“That’s 60 families that are now homeless, 60 vacant housing units not collecting rent and 60 requests to local shelters for emergency assistance,” he wrote.
The blog was picked up by several media outlets that reported that 60 families were getting kicked off the program. But through the unspent funds disbursed by HUD and staff cuts, no one has lost their vouchers.
But Dicke sees problems ahead, not only for those who can’t afford housing, but for society at large.
As he writes in his blog post:
“When family members become homeless they are less likely to be able to keep a job or find a new job. Children are less likely to attend school and if they do, perform at a lower level than their peers. When people become homeless they are more likely to face substance abuse issues, mental health problems and incarceration. All of these costs far exceed the $600 per month rent subsidy that was lost because we couldn’t agree on how to fix the budget.”
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
Barb10242: Where do I report someone who is receiving this money and shouldn't be?
Rob Dicke: @Barb10242- you can report suspected Section 8 fraud to the DCHA (if it is in our jurisdiction or the CDA if it is in Madison) or to the HUD Milwaukee field office.
Billie: Rob Dicke says “That’s 60 families that are now homeless, 60 vacant housing units not collecting rent and 60 requests to local shelters for emergency assistance,”
Yes there are some problems coming up with funding. But suggesting that people are homeless because they didn't get a voucher is not exactly ... truthful is it? Nobody has lost their voucher in Dane County. Nobody became homeless. This kind of half-truths does not help you or the people you serve. Did any of the employees at DCHA offer to give up part of their salary?
Rob Dicke: Billie — That quote came from a blog post that was written before the sequester took effect and was attempting to estimate the impact of reduced funding. As it turns out, the "fiscal cliff" is more of a slope but no less harmful. And by the way I would need to lay off almost two-thirds of my staff to make up that kind of cut in salaries, and then there would be nobody left to run the program.
ginrummy: The best thing Dane County or even better Madison can do is stop having Section 8 housing. Property values will rise, property taxes and crime will decrease and schools will be better. We don't need to keep bringing people into our city who suck our resources and dollars while not being a contributor.