Massive federal budget cuts are stealing hope from the poor, elderly and disabled. As evidence of this horrific trend, in recent months during 2013 the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) notified 14 households that their Section 8 housing choice vouchers have been suspended until further notice. The BHA also served notice to around 200 additional households in the final stages of being eligible to receive Section 8 vouchers, that their applications for vouchers have also been suspended until further notice.
With $1.7 million in budget cuts hitting the BHA in 2013 plus an additional loss of $386,000 in administrative fees to run its housing programs, the BHA also estimates that an additional 74 households may lose their Section 8 housing vouchers during 2014.
Low-income families in the Section 8 program pay 30 to 40 percent of their income in rent each month, and the rest of the rent is paid to the landlord by the federal program.
Nearby, during FY 2013 the Oakland Housing Authority also faced a budget cut of $11 million, and with Congress going on vacation last week until late September, it nearly guarantees that the next round of sequestration budget cuts totaling around $110 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts will occur during the beginning of October, when FY 2014 begins.
The additional $110 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts set to begin in October will eventually be a great hardship for low-income households in Oakland, and may result in the further loss of stable housing for the poor, elderly and disabled throughout the City, and across the nation. Already it's estimated that 125,000 households across the nation may be at risk of losing their Section 8 housing vouchers due to the first round of sequestration budget cuts that began on March 1, 2013.
Making matters worse, the House and Senate recently failed to pass a federal budget for FY 2014 that would have funded the nation's federal housing programs through the latest Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) appropriations bill.
With regards to budget cuts for some other local housing authorities during 2013, it was also reported that the Santa Clara Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $21 million. The San Francisco Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $9.4 million. The Contra Costa Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $7.2 million. The Alameda County Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $5.8 million, plus the San Mateo County Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $3.6 million.
With the on-going massive budget cuts continuing locally and throughout the nation's federal housing programs, housing authorities across the nation are stepping up their efforts to detect fraud or some kind of wrong-doing occurring in the Section 8 program and public housing program, as a way to dump the poor from their housing programs in response to the budget cuts.
Recently, a local Section 8 household was threatened for having guests stay in their household. A notice sent out to a Section 8 household from a local housing authority warned the household that they may be dumped from the program for having any guests stay with them for over 30 days, or a total of 90 cumulative calendar days during any 12 month period. This includes relatives visiting from out of town that may have brought numerous children with them while making a visit. As an example, 3 people visiting for 3 days shall constitute 9 of the 90 allowable days a Section 8 household may have guests stay with them during any 12 month period. Violation of these or other rules may result in a Section 8 household being dumped from the program.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is making an effort to get reimbursed if a housing authority makes payments to landlords with substandard housing for Section 8 tenants.
As an example, during 2012 HUD's Office of Inspector General (OIG) completed a review of the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) in response to a hotline complaint. In one instance they found indications that 13 of 19 housing units inspected did not meet housing quality standards, and that 8 of those units were in material noncompliance, resulting in the OHA paying $28,508 in Section 8 program fees to owners of housing units that were not decent, safe and of standard quality. The OIG recommended that the OHA should reimburse its Section 8 program from non-Federal funds if the 8 units have not been brought up to housing quality standards.
As an another example of going after a tenant for fraud, during July of 2013 in Mansfield, Ohio, it was reported that Section 8 tenant Danette Stevenson was accused of allegedly stealing more than $14,000 in funds while she was in the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly called the Section 8 program). She faces sentencing for accepting funding while she was not eligible to receive funding, in addition to being dumped from the program.
In Baltimore during July of 2013, it was also reported that landlord Daren Kareem Gadsen was convicted and faces 30 years in prison, plus a $1 million fine for ripping off $1.4 million from the Section 8 housing choice voucher program in that City. Tyeast Brown, William Darden, and Keith Daughtry also pleaded guilty for having a role in that scheme.
On-going budget cuts continue to steal hope from the poor, and with problems such as fraud allegedly occurring in the nation's federal housing programs there is less funding available for those that are in need, and eligible for federal housing assistance.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org