HUD changes cut Section 8 housing voucher funding

The federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will change the way it calculates Section 8 voucher funding. HUD’s changes will reduce the funding Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) receives to pay rent on behalf of voucher participants. HUD’s new policy will force THA to cut voucher program expenditures. Less money from HUD will mean THA must take drastic measures.

Over 3,500 low-income seniors, disabled people and families in Tacoma depend on Section 8 vouchers to help pay for rent. The voucher program is the city’s main source of housing assistance for families that would otherwise by homeless, living in substandard housing or paying unaffordable rents. In the past, HUD provided adequate funding for THA to cover its share of the monthly rent and utilities for Section 8 participants. The average amount of assistance per household is $556 per month. This amount includes rent and utilities.

HUD’s new policy will reduce the average monthly rental assistance to $523.65. this means THA will have to cut the amount of money it spend on Section 8 voucher assistance by more than $1 million per year. Because of the anticipated funding cuts, THA is forced to consider significant changes in the voucher program. Possible long-term changes include:

– Shifting the focus of the program to serve higher income people or smaller families who need less help each month to pay for rent. This would be a significant change from THA’s current emphasis on assisting households with the greatest need.

– Increasing the tenant’s share of the rent.

– Lowering the maximum rent allowed. If payment standards are lowered, the selection of neighborhoods affordable to program participants will be reduced.

HUD’s directive to cut program expenses, published April 22, requires THA to respond immediately. HUD is making these changes retroactive to Jan. 1. This means that THA must cut expenses for the current fiscal year by nearly $650,000. THA’s fiscal year ends June 30.

With less than five weeks to reduce expenses, THA will have to take drastic steps. The housing authority has already stopped issuing new vouchers. To save the required amount, THA may have to withhold payments for 1,162 housing choice voucher contracts on June 1. This would put THA in the position of either terminating contracts or asking landlords to accept rent reductions.

THA hopes to avoid these drastic measures. Many aspects of HUD’s proposed changes remain unclear. HUD is expected to provide more details and clarification soon. THA will host a community meeting to provide more information later this month.

“We live in times of uncertainty,” said Peter Ansara, THA executive director. “We don’t like alarming people, but we have a responsibility to notify the community, landlords and tenants. We have directives from HUD we must follow.”

He continued: “Tacoma Housing Authority is doing everything in its power to insure people have a roof over their heads. We are seeking a compromise that will afford us the time necessary to respond to this crisis. We do not have a 100 percent solution at this time, but we are committed to finding one.”