Sequester hitting Gary Housing Authority at a bad time
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com May 10, 2013 11:10PM
The Gary Housing Authority Central Office and Genesis Towers building is shown in downtown Gary, Ind. Tuesday April 16, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 13, 2013 5:34PM
The effects of sequestration are slowly revealing themselves — government furloughs, less Head Start funding and cancelled air shows — but cuts at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are hitting low-income residents literally where they live.
Recently, Congress found a solution to Federal Aviation Administration furloughs that would have delayed flights across the country.
Federal sequestration went into effect March 1 when Congress couldn’t arrive at a budgeting agreement, and it represents an $85 billion — or 5 percent — across-the-board cut to all federal agencies.
The Gary Housing Authority is in the middle of a restructuring plan, which will allow them to eliminate the backlog of residents applying for services and quicken turnover of empty units. The GHA has 450 vacant units and 800 people on the waiting list.
HUD has urged GHA to increase cash flow, implement an asset management program, reduce overall vacancies and vacant unit turnaround time, and improve the physical conditions of the properties.
But the sequester is cutting nearly one-quarter of its budget, which could mean fewer people served and putting maintenance on the back burner.
GHA interim director Mary Cossey said the agency is starting to a develop a plan in terms of how it affects them, but HUD hasn’t released its final numbers yet.
“We’re facing a $1 million deficit,” Cossey said. “In terms of how it will affect us, we just don’t know yet; there are so many variables.”
The GHA also serves Section 8 housing clients, who pay 30 percent of the rent at privately owned apartments and the government picks up the remainder.
That budget is facing a 6 percent cut, but Cossey said GHA will request that amount be filled by HUD’s undistributed budget authority.
By contrast, the Hammond Housing Authority, which distributed 816 Section 8 vouchers in 2012, hasn’t been informed of any looming cuts, executive director Carmen Paniagua said.
“We’re very glad — knock on wood — that they’re directing us to continue on current spending levels,” she said
HUD is still working on final numbers for various housing authorities, but according to a letter sent to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the state can expect around $12 million in reductions. Specifically, 2,070 families across the state will be affected by $10.1 million in cuts to the Section 8 voucher program, $971,000 from affordable housing grants, $94,000 from funding housing for people with AIDS, and $1.05 million in homeless assistance.
About 2.1 million poor people pay for housing with the vouchers nationwide, half of them elderly and disabled. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan told Congress last month that he estimates up to 125,000 families nationwide who already have the vouchers could lose them, once budget shortfalls hit local housing agencies.