Section 8 Restored...sort of…


root - Posted on 10 March 2006

While some states partially restore Section 8 funding others plan for more "gentrification". Housing activists call for nationwide protests

by Lynda Carson/Roll Back the Rents

This latest batch of news includes the latest info
from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. See
below...

The Feds/HUD have been restoring funds back into the
severely damaged Section 8 program due to the
April/May 2004 budget cuts that took place, at the
same time HUD has just lowered the Fair Market Rents
which means another whole set of cutbacks are taking
place around the nation in the Section 8 program. See
the Fair Market Rent stories below from Cape Cod &
Stamford.

San Diego Housing Agency has HUD funds restored but
fails to restore full funding back to voucher holders.
See below story...

Charlotte public housing tenants face displacement
from the privatization of public housing in their
city... See below story...

The VA-HUD Appropriations Bill which includes the
funding for the Section 8 program which the Bush
Administration opposes is taking a backburner to avoid
political fallout that may occur before the November
election.

Legislation: The $92.9 billion FY '05 VA-HUD
appropriations bill.

Floor action: Possible this week, though Democrats do
not expect the bill on the floor until after the
November election.

Quick House floor action on the FY '05 VA-HUD
appropriations bill appears unlikely this week as
lawmakers return to Capitol Hill from their summer
recess.

Democrats are anticipating Republicans will keep the
VA-HUD bill far from the floor before the presidential
election to avoid a politically risky debate.

b>Nationwide Protest Against Funding Cuts to
Housing & Homeless Programs

WASHINGTON, DC The National Coalition to Save Section
8, a broad based diverse group of over 150
researchers, service providers, advocates, people
experiencing homelessness, people who live in public
or subsidized housing and people of faith are
coordinating a day of action across the U.S to demand
full funding for Section 8 and all federal housing
programs.

. The Section 8 housing choice voucher program
currently serves two million low-income households,
the vast majority of who are working families with
children, senior citizens, and people with
disabilities.

The Bush Administration has continued its efforts to
cut up to 60,000 existing families from the Section 8
program this year through cuts to local Housing
Authorities. This was done in spite of Congress
voting for enough funds to renew all Section 8
contracts this year. If the administrations Section
8 budget for Fiscal Year 05--still before Congressis
passed as is, Housing Authorities around the country
would be forced to drop an estimated 250,000 families
from Section 8 next year and/or institute significant
rent increases within the program.

A diverse group of individuals from around the country
have been fighting these cuts for several months.
Advocates scored a major victory when the House
Appropriations Committee voted to add $1.49 billion to
Bushs Section 8 request. However, the Committee did
this by cutting all other HUD programs by
4.3%--including McKinney Act federal funds for
homeless programs, Housing for People with Aids,
Public Housing, and Community Development Block Grant
Program and HOME grants to cities. Garrick Ruiz of the
National Coalition to Save Section 8 said Existing
federal housing programs are not solving the massive
affordable housing crisis in this country, to talk
about cutting Section 8 or funding it by cutting
housing programs for people with AIDS, homeless people
or senior citizens is unconscionable

The proposed cuts to the Housing and Urban Development
Programs (HUD) programs would have a devastating
impact on the current 3.5 million homeless people in
this country.

CONTACTS: National- Donald Whitehead 202-737-6444
ext 14; dwhitehead@nationalhomeless.org

************


FY04 VOUCHER FUNDING CRISIS - WEEK 19


New England Groups Warn HUD On Housing Cuts

On August 20, the Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire
Interagency Councils on Homelessness sent a letter to
HUD warning that cuts in housing voucher funds will
lead to an increase in homelessness. The letter was
addressed to Philip Mangano and Veterans Affairs
Secretary Anthony J. Principi, director and chair,
respectively, of the U.S. Interagency Council on
Homelessness.

The letter warns that, if proposed cuts sought by HUD
for the Section 8 program are implemented, the ability
of the Interagency Councils to address homelessness
will be severely curtailed. The letter points out
that New England states are experiencing a severe
housing shortage and housing costs have escalated
dramatically over the past decade. The New England
states are looking for your help in restoring the only
lifeline most of our clients have, the letter
concludes.

Cathleen Voyer, Chair of the Vermont Interagency
Council, said in a press release that without basic
mechanisms for affordable housing, like Section 8
vouchers, the many efforts to keep families housed
would be negated. As many as 740 low income families
in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine are at risk of
losing their vouchers.

In addition, Burlington, VT, Mayor Peter Clavelle has
written a strongly worded letter to HUD Secretary
Alphonso Jackson arguing that there is a fundamental
contradiction in federal housing policy between HUD's
initiative to end homelessness and HUD's recent
Section 8 voucher funding policy for FY04.

Mr. Clavelle says that he previously wrote to
Secretary Jackson on June 30 to alert HUD to this
contradiction, but the response he received from
Assistant Secretary Steven Nesmith "is a boilerplate
response, one that does not even address the concern
that I raised." He went on to say that without funding
to support all authorized vouchers, "the City of
Burlington's Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness is a
meaningless document."

Vouchers Still an Issue in MT. Montana Governor Judy
Martz (R) has written to the Montana Congressional
delegation noting the importance of Section 8 and
questioning changes to the program in both FY04 and
FY05. Earlier in August, Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT)
sent a letter to HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson
expressing concerns about the proposed changes to the
voucher program (see Memo, August 13).

In a letter to Senator Burns, Senator Max Baucus
(D-MT) and Representative Dennis Rehberg (R-MT),
Governor Martz said, For over 30 years Montanas
disabled, children, elderly and poor have had roofs
over their heads with help from the Section 8 voucher
program. The Governor points out that Section 8 has
been the cornerstone of national housing policy since
the Nixon years, and that it is being wrongly
targeted.

The letter states that Montana housing authorities
have appealed to HUD to have their funding restored
for FY04. If successful, the appeal will keep as many
as 400 families from losing their housing assistance.

The Governor also wrote that additional families stand
to lose their homes if proposed voucher budget cuts
for FY05 are implemented. She urged Congress to
intervene, calling the voucher program good for
Montana and good for the nation.

Advocates Prepare for Next Congressional Action.
Advocates are preparing for further advocacy on FY05
HUD appropriations, including the voucher program,
upon the reconvening of Congress the week of September
7. Before adjourning for the August recess, the House
Appropriations Committee considered the FY05 HUD
appropriations, restoring the cuts to the voucher
program proposed by President Bush, but continuing
harmful Section 8 language and proposing cuts to all
other housing programs by more than 4%. The Senate
has not yet considered the FY05 HUD appropriations.
Additional information is at www.nlihc.org.

************

Montana Update

* The Associated Press reported on September 2, 2004
that the HUD decision restores partial funding to
voucher programs in Montana. However, according to
George Warn, manager of the Montana Commerce
Department's Housing Assistance Bureau, "They [HUD]
told us that this was a one-time increase and that the
funding would not be included in our base in 2005."
According to the Billings Gazette, 150 families are
still at risk of losing their vouchers.

************

San Diego Housing commission to get back $3.3 million cut by HUD
in April


San Diego Daily Transcript

The San Diego Housing Commission is having $3.3
million restored by the U.S. Housing and Urban
Development Department for Section 8 voucher
financing.

The government will restore approximately $156 million
to housing authorities nationwide. The money will be
distributed to 379 of the 398 housing authorities that
appealed.

Despite the restored funds, the commission said it
wouldn't reverse two changes it implemented earlier
this year after learning in April that HUD had changed
its funding formula. As a result of the HUD change,
the commission reduced its voucher size and the
maximum subsidy level. HUD's change was retroactive
and based on average rental rates in August 2003.

The voucher size dictates the number of bedrooms per
unit, depending on how many people live in the
household.

In the city of San Diego, approximately 5,000 property
owners rent to 12,000 low-income, voucher-holding
households in the housing commission's rental
assistance program. Households include families,
seniors and disabled people.

When renters who are affected by these changes are
recertified annually, they must either pay more rent
or move to a home with fewer bedrooms.

"The housing commission has been on a program trying
to reduce the cost of the Section 8 rental
assistance," said Elizabeth C. Morris, president and
CEO of the commission. "Even with those cost saving
measures it's likely we would not have had sufficient
funds to continue to help all 12,200 families."

Between 75 percent and 80 percent of the families earn
30 percent of the region's median income. For a family
of four, that would be $20,550. The total household
income allowed for a family of four to qualify for
Section 8 assistance is 80 percent of the median
income, which is $54,000 for a family of four.

When landlords rent to families, they enter into a
lease agreement with both the housing commission and
the tenant. Under the agreement, tenants pay
approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of their gross
monthly income for rent.

One or two people in the household qualify for a
one-bedroom rental. The maximum rental subsidy is
$962. The level may vary from neighborhood to
neighborhood. Households with three or four people
qualify for a voucher for two bedrooms, and up to
$1,204 in rental assistance.

"Our budget is still not healthy by a long shot," said
Bobbie Christensen, director of the commission's
communication and strategy department, in a prepared
statement. "We had to use our commitment to voucher
holders and rental owners. We (still) need to make the
voucher size change to keep us financially viable so
we can continue to help all those we do."

************
Fair market' may not be fair - Cape Cod Story


Cape Cod Times - Sep 06

Affordable housing advocates criticize federal
calculations of Cape rental rates. Are Cape rents
going down? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development seems to think so, say advocates for
affordable housing.

They are protesting a HUD proposal to decrease what
the agency considers a "fair market rent" for
subsidized housing on Cape Cod.

While HUD set a fair market rent for a three-bedroom
house or apartment in Barnstable County at $1,202 this
year, it proposes the rate be reduced to $1,094 as of
Oct. 1. That's a decrease of 9 percent in what federal
officials consider a fair price for people who receive
subsidized Section 8 housing.

Housing advocates say federal officials will end up
forcing low-income renters on Section 8 to spend more
of their income on rent and may alienate the private
landlords who participate in the Section 8 program.

************
Stamford Housing officials call for fairness in rents


The Stamford Advocate

Several housing authorities in lower Fairfield County
think a proposed change in rent standards set by the
federal government won't be fair. Fair market rents,
published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, represent the average rent for an
apartment and utilities in an area.

This is the first time HUD is calculating the rates
using 2000 Census data and new Office of Management
and Budget geographical definitions. HUD establishes
new fair market rent benchmarks every 10 years based
on the Census.

Fair market rents, or the amount HUD says it will give
Section 8 landlords for rent subsidies, will be $787
for an efficiency apartment; $950 for a one bedroom;
$1,100 for a two-bedroom; $1,316 for a three-bedroom;
and $1,725 for a four-bedroom.

About 1,000 families in Stamford and 770 in Norwalk
rely on the affected programs. Greenwich housing
officials did not return calls last week.

************
North Carolina Public housing to get a makeover


The Charlotte Observer - Sep 05

Tawana Shannon sat with neighbors playing Monopoly
under a shade tree to escape her sweltering apartment
at Live Oak public housing complex. Outside, the
community of 32 apartments seems a peaceful,
tree-lined enclave in the shadow of Phillips Place
near SouthPark mall.

Live Oak, behind Phillips Place off Fairview Road, is
one of six valuable properties the Housing Authority
owns and wants to put to different use, either by
building mixed-income communities or selling the land
and using profits to build affordable housing
elsewhere.

To do it without depending on huge grants of federal
money, the authority will partner with a private
developer to demolish Live Oak and replace it with
mixed-income apartments, condos and perhaps detached
homes and offices.

Such a plan would renew concerns that not enough
public housing would be rebuilt or would be too
expensive. The same concerns arose when Earle Village
public housing complex was transformed into
mixed-income First Ward Place in uptown Charlotte in
the 1990s.

"We looked at our portfolio and realized we have some
of the choicest real estate in the state of North
Carolina," authority CEO Charles Woodyard said. "We
started thinking that we are underutilizing these
valuable assets, and we've got to convert them into
cash flow or housing that makes more sense for
low-income families."

Gentrification a concern

Housing advocates worry that redeveloping public
housing in prime locations opens the door to
gentrification, where neighborhoods are redeveloped
for well-paid professionals as low-income residents
are squeezed out.

Fear of displacement

Yet some public housing residents are nervous after
years of hearing stories about residents at HOPE VI
redevelopments being displaced.

************

Washington State Housing money restored


JASON HAGEY/ Tacoma News Tribune

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
has agreed to restore nearly $1.3 million in funding
to the Tacoma Housing Authority's Section 8 rent
subsidy program and an additional $650,000 to the
Pierce County Housing Authority.

Officials from both housing agencies say they now have
enough money to run their Section 8 programs through
the end of the year without making additional cuts.

This summer the Pierce County Housing Authority mailed
letters to 229 Section 8 voucher recipients notifying
them they would be cut from the program, and Tacoma
was making plans to borrow money from the City of
Tacoma.

At the same time they found ways to cut costs, many
housing authorities appealed HUD's calculations.

Nationwide, HUD agreed to restore $156 million in
funding to 379 of the 398 housing authorities that
appealed, said Donna White, a HUD spokeswoman.

**********

B>VA-HUD SPENDING BILL LIKELY HEADED FOR HOUSE
BACKBURNER
Environment and Energy Daily
September 7, 2004

Darren Samuelsohn, Environment & Energy Daily senior
reporter

Legislation: The $92.9 billion FY '05 VA-HUD
appropriations bill, which includes $7.75 billion for
the U.S. EPA.

Floor action: Possible this week, though Democrats do
not expect the bill on the floor until after the
November election.

Quick House floor action on the FY '05 VA-HUD
appropriations bill appears unlikely this week as
lawmakers return to Capitol Hill from their summer
recess.

According to a spokesman for House Appropriations
Committee ranking member David Obey (D-Wis.), sharp
spending cuts for many of the bill's most popular
agencies, including the U.S. EPA, NASA and the
National Science Foundation, have pressed GOP leaders
into holding off on a debate on the overall $92.9
billion spending bill. Democrats are anticipating
Republicans will keep the VA-HUD bill far from the
floor before the presidential election to avoid a
politically risky debate, Obey's spokesman said.

The White House Office of Management and Budget
criticized the VA-HUD bill when it passed the House
Appropriations Committee in late July, offering a veto
threat because of the 7 percent NASA cut. The space
agency's budget also drew the ire of House Majority
Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), whose home district next
year will include all of the Johnson Space Center in
Houston. DeLay called the NASA budget cut
unacceptable.

A spokesman for House Appropriations Committee
Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) said the FY '05 Labor,
Health and Human Services spending bill is the only
appropriations measure scheduled for floor debate this
week, with no set schedule for VA-HUD or the
Transportation spending bills. Floor action on the
Labor-HHS bill is expected tomorrow and Thursday.

Just prior to the summer recess, Young shifted his
plan for the FY '05 appropriations process, saying he
would try to complete all of the outstanding bills
when lawmakers return after Labor Day. Previously, he
had said his goal was to pass all 13 spending bills
individually before the start of the August break,
wrapping them together after that into a year-end
omnibus for conference with the Senate.

But with a short calendar leading up to the November
presidential election, it remains unclear if Young
will need to change his strategy again. So far, the
Senate has debated and approved only the FY '05
Defense appropriations bill, and Senate Appropriations
Committee markups for VA-HUD and eight other spending
measures have yet to be scheduled. The outcome of the
White House race is also considered a major factor in
determining the direction of the appropriations
process.

The House VA-HUD bill that advanced out of committee
includes $7.75 billion for EPA, which is a $605
million cut from the FY '04 enacted level of $8.37
billion. The House's EPA mark is also just below the
administration's $7.76 billion request. Within the
larger VA-HUD bill, spending on veterans health care
and low-income housing take top billing and are the
only major programs to receive a significant increase.

At EPA specifically, the Clean Water State Revolving
Loan Fund takes the largest spending hit with a
funding total of $850 million, the same level in the
administration's budget proposal. Congress last year
approved $1.35 billion for the catch-all water
infrastructure account.

Democrats criticized the CWSRF cut during the House
committee markup but refrained from offering any
amendments. Obey's spokesman said a CWSRF amendment
could be offered if the VA-HUD bill comes to the floor
on its own but noted that it would be more difficult
to try to increase funding for it if the legislation
ends up in an omnibus.

Both the Bush and Clinton administrations recommended
limiting the CWSRF only to see lawmakers add money
back during the appropriations process. Rep. Jim Walsh
(R-N.Y.), chairman of the VA-HUD panel, said during
the July markup he hoped the funding cut would be a
one-time event spawned by tight overall budget caps.

"This is not something we should or can do again next
year," Walsh said. "This is something we're basically
forced to do this year."

EPA spending other than the CWSRF would fall by an
average of 2 percent from FY '04 levels in the House
VA-HUD bill, Walsh said. The agency's science and
technology account nets $729 million under the VA-HUD
bill, a $53 million cut from FY '04 levels but a $50
million increase over Bush's request. The EPA's
environmental programs and management account receives
$2.24 billion in the House bill, a $39 million cut
from current levels and a $76 million reduction from
the administration's request.

The Superfund cleanup account receives $1.26 billion
in the House bill, status quo from current levels. And
the House bill also includes $845 million for EPA's
Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund, the same
level as FY '04.

At this point, the House bill does not make any major
policy recommendations or advance controversial riders
addressing EPA. In the event VA-HUD ends up in an
omnibus, Obey's spokesman said Democrats will be on
the lookout for such language.

On the issue of EPA enforcement, the House VA-HUD bill
does not spark controversy this year. For FY '05, the
panel funds the same full-time employee level of 3,471
that Democrats were able to include in the FY '04 EPA
budget. The Bush administration has proposed slight
personnel increases in past years but has still faced
pressure from Democrats to boost environmental
enforcement staffing even further.

A tight budget has led the House VA-HUD bill's authors
to limit spending on several of Bush's proposed new
spending priorities. The administration requested $65
million for the expansion of EPA's Clean School Bus
USA program, which aims to upgrade the nation's entire
school bus fleet to low-emission vehicles by 2010. But
the House bill included only $10 million in grants for
local school districts.

The VA-HUD bill also includes $3.28 million for the
White House Council on Environmental Quality, the same
total from the Bush budget request and a $65,000
increase from current levels. Report language in the
bill calls on CEQ to complete a report by March 2005
examining existing federal water reuse, recycling and
reclamation programs.

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