NLIHC State Coalition Partner, Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP), released a report that unveils the current and projected impact of sequestration on low income renters in Minnesota. Released December 4, Out in the Cold: Sequestration and Federal Housing Programs in Minnesota investigates how housing agencies that administer housing choice vouchers and public housing have responded to substantial federal cuts, and what it has meant for individuals and families served by these programs.
Since 2010, federal budget cuts, including sequestration, have reduced funding for housing choice vouchers by 8% and public housing by 25% nationally, after adjusting for inflation. In Minnesota, the consequences of reduced funds are severe. Together the housing choice voucher and public housing programs provide housing assistance to more than 50,000 households in the state, of which approximately 60% include an elderly or a person with a disability. More than one-third of the residents are children. In November, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated the state would lose 2,500 vouchers by the end of 2014 if federal leaders do not act to reduce or eliminate arbitrary cuts due to sequestration. MHP estimates this would put more than 6,000 people at high risk of becoming homeless.
During the summer of 2013, MHP and the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) surveyed local housing agencies that administer 80% of the state’s vouchers and public housing portfolio to analyze the impact of the cuts. The agencies have reduced their staff in response to the cuts and expect to lay off 27% of housing choice voucher employees as a result of the 2012-2013 budget cuts. Further, funds for public housing repairs are being diverted to support daily operation of the program, a cause for concern considering the more than $300 million backlog of needed improvements to public housing buildings in the state.
Agencies reported longer wait lists for both programs, leaving people homeless or in precarious housing situations for longer periods of time. More than half of the state’s housing agencies administering housing choice vouchers said they expect their waiting lists to exceed two years by January 2014, and 16% reported already having wait lists that exceed six years.
In most cases, the agencies are making dedicated efforts to cut program areas that do not have a direct impact on residents and are exhausting program reserves to soften the effects of sequestration to keep families in their homes. However, 8% of agencies have adopted preferences for higher income public housing applicants, and an additional 14% planned to do so within months of the survey. Alternatively, some agencies are opting to increase rents or require residents to move to less expensive units. For families utilizing housing choice vouchers, finding a less expensive home in Minnesota’s tight rental market, in addition to a landlord willing to accept the voucher, can be difficult. Others who will pay increased rents will be living in units that are no longer considered affordable to them by HUD standards.
MHP is calling on federal leaders to find solutions that keep both housing safety net programs intact. State leaders are also called upon to invest in local affordable housing assets at risk of being lost due to disinvestment. This would prevent spending more money to assist the same families through shelter programs. MHP and its allies will use the report to call for an end to sequestration, in addition to $100 million in state bonding for affordable housing, $20 million of which would be used to preserve federal public housing. Advocates will also urge support for the United for Homes proposal and its legislative vehicle in the House, H.R. 1213, the Common Sense Housing Investment Act. Both call for modifications to the mortgage interest deduction to help increase affordable housing production through the National Housing Trust Fund.
“This report shows that the consequences of cuts to housing safety net programs are severe and are being felt all across the state,” said Chip Halbach, MHP’s executive director. “If Congress and Minnesota’s legislature fail to shore up our safety net, those most in need of housing really will be left out in the cold.”
For more information contact Leigh Rosenberg, Minnesota Housing Partnership, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the report at: http://bit.ly/1bGmAA3