Sequestration = Chaos and Confusion

Two CMHA officials gave their periodic update about the agency at the last CAHA meeting.  Media are not supposed to quote presenters at CAHA so that they can be free to be speak honestly.  But we can give you the basics of the meeting: Sequestration means chaos and confusion.  Throughout the federal government this week and with non-profit agencies receiving the bulk of their money from the federal government there are lots of meetings happening.  They are wasting human capital figuring out how to cut staff, travel, or other costs because Congress is so dysfunctional.  They are implementing what both parties agreed would never happen.  It has happened and it will have real consequences for people living in Public Housing. 

The issue is that both Public Housing and the Voucher Program are at nearly 100% occupied, and these cuts have to be across the board.  So they can not take any new people in like the Housing Choice Voucher program has decided to do, but eventually the 5% cut will catch up to involve evictions.  The other problem is that the agency received a huge cut last year and they were told to go into their reserves.  Then Congress never passed a budget and just continued the 2012 budget which was a still a substantial decrease.  Many are running low on their reserves and cannot continue unless there is a fix or restoration of cuts from last year.  The bigger problem for both agencies is the Continuing Resolution runs out at the end of March.  This great unknown of what will happen on March 28 is by far a bigger concern for the Housing Authority. 

Housing Authorities have been instructed to cut 5% across the board, but that is 5% for the year so each month is a much larger increase since we are well into the fiscal year.  For example, the Housing Authority only received 89% of what they were expecting for March because of Sequestration.  They are meeting all the time to figure out what to do.  So, instead of repairing units, finding additional revenue, or housing people they are wasting their time figuring out how to divide up 85% of the budget they need to stay open. Eventually, the tenants and landlords are going to feel the pain, but right now it is just a headache for the administration.  They may have to put off rebuilding projects or furlough staff.  They are committed to maintain the people currently in housing and making the last cut to people currently housed.  It was mentioned that this could result in more homeless people.  The sad fact is that the homeless shelters will also see a 5% cut.  The shelter cuts would not start being seen until the fall, but we are already seeing a backup in the shelters where no one is leaving.  So, the men's shelter is having issues where the communities are static and very few are moving into housing.  This is causing a back up at the front door and more people facing an overflow situation. 

Sequestration means chaos for Public Housing.  It means confusion and insecurity for the future of the voucher program.  We will see what happens over the next month, but right now it is a big waste of time that could be over if Congress would just do their jobs. 

Brian Davis

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