New funding could reduce burden on Section 8 residents
BY SAM SPOKONY | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JAN. 10, 2013 | Six months after heavily downsizing its Section 8 housing program due to budget cuts, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development expects it will soon receive new federal funding that should allow the agency to consider other — perhaps more popular — policy options.
In December, the U.S. Senate passed a two-year budget deal that provides about $22 billion in additional funding for all nonmilitary programs this fiscal year, while putting the allocation of that money back in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The deal was an important step in restoring some funding levels after the nationwide budget cuts that began in early 2013 with the implementation of the federal sequester.
Sources close to the situation in Washington, D.C., said on Friday that there’s been no word yet on how the new funding will be allocated, but that they expect to see some details finalized sometime over the course of the next week.
The sequester had forced H.P.D. to take a $35 million budget cut for 2013, and had a devastating impact on its Section 8 voucher program, which provides vital money for housing to around 30,000 low-income residents across New York City, including nearly 1,200 who live in the East Village or Lower East Side.
Last July, the agency scaled back Section 8 by forcing voucher holders to either pay a greater share of their rent or move to a smaller apartment, placing a huge burden on thousands of already struggling families who, on average, earn around $15,000 per year.
The move was soon criticized by numerous elected officials, including a coalition led by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler.
“We urge H.P.D. to re-examine these changes and consider alternatives that minimize the impact on our most vulnerable families and ensure there are no evictions of people currently receiving Section 8 vouchers,” said Nadler and nine other New York congressmembers, in a joint letter to the agency last September.
Now, with the new federal funding on the way, it appears that H.P.D. may in fact be open to considering alternatives.
An H.P.D. spokesperson said on Friday that, although Section 8 funding will certainly not be restored to pre-sequestration levels, the agency will have “more options” for managing its budget shortfall once the Senate Appropriations Committee finalizes its bill for allocating the new money.
The spokesperson added that, as the agency learns more about its new funding levels, it will coordinate with the Mayor’s Office to adjust its Section 8 policies, “if possible and appropriate.”
In a statement on Friday, Nadler stressed that any new changes to the housing program should be community-oriented, and should take into account the specific needs of low-income residents.
“If H.P.D. makes changes to its Section 8 policies, I expect that there would be a real public process and opportunity for public input,” Nadler said in an e-mail to The Villager. “Any policy changes must be structured to be the least burdensome possible for individuals and families who rely on Section 8.”