Marin County anticipates housing voucher freeze

POSTED: 3/20/18

Author: Richard Halstead

Publication: Marin Independent Journal


Lewis Jordan, Marin housing authority chief, speaks to the Marin County Housing Authority Board in 2015. Due to a funding shortfall, the housing authority is expected to limit the Section 8 housing voucher program this year. Robert Tong — Marin Independent Journal

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Marin County’s ability to address the housing crisis using federal Section 8 housing vouchers will be limited this year.


Lewis Jordan, executive director of the Marin Housing Authority, told supervisors Tuesday that he has received preliminary notification from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that his funding for Section 8 housing vouchers will be reduced in 2018. Jordan said he expects to receive $4.3 million less than what he will need.


“That will put us in shortfall,” Jordan said. “During a shortfall year we cannot bring new people into the program.”


MARIN HOUSING > MORE COVERAGE


Rejecting calls from some to consider rent control, the Board of Supervisors has made the Section 8 housing voucher program a central pillar in its strategy to address Marin’s affordable housing crisis.


In July 2016, county supervisors allocated more than $400,000 for a program designed to convince more Marin landlords to accept housing vouchers. Jordan said the landlord incentive program has helped to convince 80 additional landlords to accept Section 8 housing.


And in November 2016, the supervisors adopted an ordinance prohibiting landlords in unincorporated Marin from discriminating against people using Section 8 housing vouchers.


Last year, the Housing Authority spend $36 million on the voucher program, and this year it expects to spend $40 million.


“We’ve had a lot of rent increases and we have many more families,” said Kimberly Carroll, the housing authority’s deputy director.


D’Jon Scott-Miller, the Section 8 program manager, said 100 additional Marin families a month used Section 8 vouchers in 2017. About an equal number of families tried but failed to find housing in Marin using a voucher. There are currently about 800 people on the county’s Section 8 waiting list, which was last opened in 2008.


Scott-Miller said, “We had about 1,200 rent increases throughout the year, which resulted in extra spending of $1.6 million.”


Despite the increased costs, HUD has told the authority to expect a 4 percent reduction in funding for housing vouchers in 2018.


In February, the Trump administration announced the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget for HUD, which calls for a 14 percent cut to about $41 billion. The budget proposes cutting funding for Section 8 vouchers by nearly $1 billion, which it is estimated could affect more than 250,000 low-income families.


Jordan said HUD will likely cover the authority’s shortfall so it can meet its current obligations, but it will impose a freeze on the issuance of new vouchers.


Scott-Miller said last month there were 2,169 Section 8 housing vouchers in use in Marin, and there were an additional 50 people looking for Marin landlords who would accept a voucher.


Jordan said those 50 people can continue looking, but once the authority receives official notification of the budget shortfall the freeze will be extended to include them as well.


People who are already using housing vouchers will not be affected by the freeze, Jordan said. Likewise, people issued project-based vouchers attached to specific housing units and veterans receiving housing vouchers will be unaffected. There are about 250 project-based housing vouchers in use in Marin and 63 veterans using vouchers.


Carroll said the freeze will not prevent the use of about 15 Section 8 housing vouchers for the county’s “shelter plus care” program, which is designed to house Marin’s chronically homeless population.


She said, “A shelter plus care grant will help provide some of the housing for those folks.” To read original article posting, click here:

http://www.marinij.com/general-news/20180320/marin-county-anticipates-housing-voucher-freeze

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