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Public Housing And Voucher Programs At Risk

The Bush Administration Proposes An Experiment In Public Housing That Would Maximise The Ability Of PHA's To Do Things That Affect Tenants Residing In Public Housing Without Fear Of Prosecution!
Public Housing And Voucher Programs At Risk
By Lynda Carson Febuary 4, 2004

The Bush Administration's insane attempts to achieve world domination by use of force along with the very expensive rapid creation of a police state aparatus in America, has cost Americans dearly and has severely cut into the nations most needed domestic spending programs as a result for years ahead.

The Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) is feeling the pinch of cost cutting measures being proposed by the Bush Administration for fiscal year 2005, in addition to internal audit problems occurring at HUD during recent years that resulted in $59.6 billion dollars that could not be accounted for. Critics have been asking "wheres the money," and as of yet the question has not been resolved. See;  http://www.whereisthemoney.org/hotseat/melmartinez.htm

In part, HUD federal subsidies provide 74% of its budget to fund $23.2 billion for section 8 and public housing. HUD's proposed budget for 2005 requests $31.3 billion to fund all of it's programs in total.

HUD subsidizes around 1.2 million public housing units through what are known as Public Housing Authorities (PHA's). The HUD website states that there are around a total of 3,300 PHA's in existance, but a search of all the PHA's throughout the states and territories of the U.S., has turned up a figure of 4,223 PHA's. California has 124 PHA's that control 44,953 public housing units. Oakland has it's own PHA that operates 76 developments containing 3,308 public housing units and provides subsidies for 10,919 section 8 units that are being funded by the federal government (HUD).

The Bush Administration's new proposed budget for the fiscal year 2005 has severe consequenses for the elderly, disabled and low-income renters using the housing choice voucher programs (section 8 programs) and the new budget proposal also cuts spending meant to revitalize severely distressed public housing projects across the nation.

In a Febuary 2, 2004 Press Release, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-profit organization that analyzes annual federal budgets, they state that the funding for the housing voucher programs (section 8 programs) would fall more than $1.6 billion short of the amount needed to maintain the existing vouchers that are already in use if the proposals are passed into law.

The result of the shortfall places at least 250,000 elderly, disabled and low-income renters at risk of losing their vouchers unless the funding levels rise enough to maintain the housing vouchers that are presently being used.

Other cuts being proposed for HUD's 2005 budget also has more severe consequences for the renters in Public Housing and the Section 8 Housing Programs.

A look at the numbers in the HUD fiscal year 2005 budget summary, reveals that federal funding for revitalization of public housing developments has shrunk rapidly. Funding in 2003 was set at $570 million (dollars), $149 million in fiscal year 2004, and zero dollars being proposed for 2005.

Funding for the Hope 6 Program was set at $149 million in fiscal year 2004, and the new proposed budget for 2005 reduced funding levels to zero dollars. The Hope 6 Program demolished and converted public housing developments into mixed income housing projects, and critics have claimed that the Hope 6 projects have resulted in a huge loss of low-income housing for renters across the nation.

At a glance, the summary of the proposed 2005 fiscal year HUD budget may be shocking to the residents of public housing. No funding is being allocated to revitalize severely distressed public housing developments, and $30 million is being granted to accelerate the demolition of public housing units across the nation. HUD claims that it's committed to ensuring that the public housing stock is either maintained in good condition or is to be demolished.

Making matters worse for the renters in public housing units that may face demolition, the Tenant Protection Replacement Vouchers are being proposed for elimination. Funding in 2003 and 2004 was set at $48 million annually, with zero funding being proposed for the fiscal year 2005.

The Tenant Protection Replacement Vouchers have been used to assist renters to relocate from public housing units being demolished or converted into Hope 6 Projects, and also are used to assist renters losing their housing in Section 8 Buildings where the owners decide to opt out of the programs.

Another concern to HUD recipients is the new proposal being called the "Flexible Voucher Program" (FVP) which is intended to replace the Housing Choice Voucher Program. When the Section 8 Certificate Program was combined with the Section 8 Voucher Program, the new combined program was named the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP). HUD claims that the HCVP is not sustainable, and has reduced HUD's ability to fund other programs.

Countering HUD's claims, critics charge that the rents have been decreasing nationwide, and that in the following years the section 8 programs will be less costly to operate.

HUD is proposing to return to a dollar-based grant program from the existing unit based system which HUD alleges has allowed for a dramatic increase in program costs. If the proposed FVP replaces the existing HCVP, it will allow greater PHA discretion to avoid existing mandated federal requirements and would eliminate or terminate the "one size fits all" program design.

The proposed FVP would include all administrative costs in the total grant, and would reward the PHA's with bonus' for increasing the number of participants that use the voucher assistance programs on a transitional basis rather than a permenant basis to fund their housing needs.

In addition to the proposed elimination of Section 8 renters that use vouchers on a permenant basis, the new HUD budget also proposes an experiment called the "Public Housing Reform Demonstration" (PHRD) which is intended to involve 50 participating PHA's in the experiment.

The experiment called PHRD will maximise the ability of the PHA's to make decisions affecting their tenants in public housing units while serving the same number of low-income families. Participating PHA's in the experiment will be allowed to combine the use of capital and operating funds to set locally determined rent structures for the tenants in public housing, while similtaneously being able to free themselves from many federal requirements of federal reporting.

HUD claims that the experiment (PHRD) allowing for more flexibility for the PHA's will allow the local PHA's and HUD to shift to an asset based management practice in the public housing projects. It appears that HUD believes that more flexibility allows the PHA's to be in a better position to persuade the public housing renters to find a job and work longers hours whether they are able or not.

The experiment (PHRD) will be evaluated and measured, and 50 other PHA's will be used as a control group that must follow current regulations and public housing laws as a comparison to the proposed 50 PHA's participating in the experiment that will be allowed to avoid the existing housing laws and regulations.

Renters in the section 8 voucher programs are not allowed to pay landlords more than what is known as the Fair Market Rents during each fiscal year. In Oakland, landlords are restricted from charging more than $936 per month for a studio apartment, $1132 per month for a 1 bdrm, $1420 per month for a 2 bdrm, $1947 for a 3 bdrm, and $2325 for a 4 bdrm unit. Despite the restrictions, tenants still charge that many landlords demand extra cash under the table to avoid the restrictions.

Each PHA in the U.S., or it's territories, are allowed to conduct their own survey to determine the Fair Market Rents in their areas to restrict the landlords, and a search of the different PHA's resulted in some astounding differences. Renters are allowed to transfer their vouchers from one PHA to the PHA of their choice, and the landlords are restricted from charging more than the Fair Market Rents in each area the PHA resides.

Oakland restricts landlords from charging more than $936 per month for a studio apartment. As an example, in comparison of only a few PHA's, the following figures are offered; $213 a month for a studio in Vieques, Puerto Rico, $665 for a studio in Chicago, $606 for a studio in Las Vegas, $463 for a studio in New Orleans, $488 for a studio in Detroit, $509 for a studio in the Virgin Islands on St. Croix, $565 for a studio in Anchorage, $458 for a studio in Memphis, $848 for a studio in New York City, $760 for a studio in Guam, $642 for a studio in Hawaii, $361 for a studio in San Juan, Puerto Rico, $406 for a studio in Little Rock, $573 for a studio in Minneapolis, $577 for a studio in Miami, and $913 a month for a studio in Washington D.C.

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