City hoping budget deal means Section 8 vouchers will continue

BY SAM SPOKONY  | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JAN. 23, 2014  |  The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development is hoping to get at least $400 million in new federal funding as a result of the recent budget deal in order to prevent revoking some of its current Section 8 housing vouchers, according to an H.P.D. spokesperson.

The spokesperson said on Jan. 22 that, while rescinding vouchers would be a last resort, that baseline level of new funding will be required for H.P.D. to maintain the current status quo for its Section 8 program, which has already been significantly scaled back due to budget cuts.

H.P.D’s Section 8 program provides vital housing subsidies to around 30,000 low-income residents in New York City, including nearly 1,200 who live in the East Village or Lower East Side. If vouchers are rescinded this year, some of those people — who, on average, make around $15,000 per year — will probably lose their homes.

The budget deal recently approved by the U.S. Congress has made $17. 4 billion in new funding available for the renewal of Section 8 vouchers nationwide. The decision of how to distribute that money to local agencies will be made by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has until mid-March to announce its allocations.

After taking a $35 million budget cut due the federal sequester, H.P.D. scaled down Section 8 last July by forcing voucher holders to either pay a greater share of their rent or move to smaller apartment. Although the move was — and continues to be — criticized by housing advocates and elected officials because it places a heavy burden on many struggling families, it did the job of preventing the agency from having to rescind any vouchers.

The $35 million cut equates to approximately 2,900 Section 8 vouchers — nearly 10 percent of its citywide total — according to H.P.D. If the agency had never scaled down the program last year, it would likely have had to rescind that many vouchers. And since H.P.D. did scale back the program by forcing some people to pay more, it never had to take that step — that “last resort” — which probably would have caused even greater anger among housing advocates.

But H.P.D. may not be able to hold on any longer if it doesn’t receive the additional $400 million for this year, in which case cutting down the number of voucher holders could be the only option, the agency spokesperson said.

At this point, it’s simply a waiting game for thousands of Section 8 residents across the city, as HUD still has nearly two months to decide how much money out of that $17.4 billion will come to New York City’s H.P.D. — and, essentially, how many low-income families will be able to keep their homes.

 

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