Minnesota’s most important federal housing programs for low-income renters are reeling under pressure from sequestration-induced budget cuts, finds a new report from the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP) and the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities(NAHRO).Since 2010, substantial federal budget cuts to Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV or Section 8 Vouchers) and Public Housing have left local housing authorities scrambling to keep their programs solvent and administer needed housing assistance to some of Minnesota's most vulnerable people.
Together these programs provide housing assistance to over 50,000 low-income Minnesota households. Nearly 60% include someone who is elderly or has a disability, and over a third of the residents are children. The average household income for those using the programs is under $15,000 annually.
The report, Out in the Cold: Sequestration and Federal Housing Programs in Minnesota,investigates the impacts of budget cuts to HCV (Section 8) and public housing. Based on surveys of local program administrators, the study finds that housing authorities are cutting staff, cutting maintenance, and leaving available vouchers unfilled due to budget pressures. Efforts are being made to protect residents, but sometimes families are being asked to move or pay higher minimum rents, even when this will make housing unaffordable to them.
As waiting lists grow and vouchers are left unfilled, people endure unstable housing situations and sometimes live without a home altogether. Some administrators, especially of smaller agencies, worry that if cuts continue, they will lose the ability to operate their programs at all and residents will be left out in the cold.
Randal Hemmerlin, director of the Red Wing Housing and Redevelopment Authority and president of Minnesota NAHRO explained the impacts of budget cuts in Red Wing. “Some of the most vulnerable people we have in Red Wing, including elderly and disabled community members, do not receive Section 8 rental assistance now, even though they would have one to two years ago. We are faring even worse in public housing. We simply are not collecting enough revenue to maintain the buildings. Unfortunately, Red Wing's situation is not unique,” said Hemmerlin.
Chip Halbach, MHP’s Executive Director added, "The cuts to these successful, effective, safety net housing programs are tragic. It is essential that we find policy alternatives."
Click here to download the report: http://mhponline.org/images/stories/docs/research/reports/out_in_the_cold_final_16p.pdf