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August, 2004

Bush Administration Gutting Affordable Housing
By Don Deane

Did you know that some working adults in Marin, employed close to full time, are only making $700 to $1,000 a month? Some families with working parents are getting by with less than $1500 a month?

One community after another trying to provide affordable housing in Marin is discovering that federal funds they were counting on are disappearing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development under the direction of the Bush administration wants to cut billions from the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program over the next five years. The cuts are expected to result in the loss of 250,000 housing vouchers nationwide in 2005 and 800,000 vouchers by 2009. The crunch has already started.

The Republican Congress' affordable housing cuts coupled with the Bush administrations intentions undermines Section 8's goal-to provide access to affordable, decent housing for people who would otherwise be unable to secure it.

New projects such as the Fireside in Tam Junction, EAH in Pt. Reyes, Hamilton and the garage in Bolinas are expected to be severely impacted by the cuts. Already existing projects could be devastated. News that project based vouchers would be reduced or eliminated first surfaced in April. These vouchers provide a section 8 subsidy for people in specific affordable housing programs. The affordable housing recipients pay 30 percent of their income and Section 8 provides the balance so that the project is, in-effect, self-sustaining. Some of these funds may be restored according to Roy Batemen, Community Development Coordinator.

"Marin County has a competent and caring Housing Authority, and their use of project-based Section 8 vouchers to support non-profit housing is good public policy and an efficient use of government funds," Batemen says. "Non-profit ownership is the surest way to guarantee permanent affordability in a high-priced housing market. The Housing Authority has made some technical and procedural violations, which need to be addressed. I am hopeful that a solution can be worked out which does not jeopardize the financing for the development of non-profit housing in Marin."

The amazing reality in Marin and other pricey communities of the Bay Area is that individuals making up to $36,000 are eligible for assistance because of ever accelerating rental costs.

Barbara Sard, director of housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the administration proposal abandons three decades of progress "in improving the voucher program, and would undermine the programs goal of providing access to affordable, decent housing for people who otherwise would be unable to secure it."

Thirty five states are in upheaval because of Section 8 cuts by Congress. Nationwide housing authorities are reducing rent payments or freezing the number of Section 8 voucher. Some have cut off subsidies altogether.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Executive Director Robert Greenstein calls the Section 8 crisis the worst case of mismanagement by a federal agency he has seen in more than 30 years in Washington.

But it gets better. No funding is being allocated to maintain and revitalize distressed public housing and HUD claims that it is committed to ensuring that the public housing stock is either maintained in good condition or demolished. When it's torn down, the former tenants are on their own. Housing Replacement Vouchers are also being eliminated.

In essence it would appear that President Bush is cutting critical domestic programs to reduce deficit spending for foreign misadventures.

National Low Income Housing Coalition President Sheila Crowley says it best after reviewing the budget. "The President has taken the country into an ever deepening deficit with reckless tax cuts, and now he wants to start digging his way out by making life harder for those who have the least. Outrage is the only rational response."

The government is creating a huge homeless problem that is frightening. Sons, daughters, grandfathers and grandmothers will be swept into its vortex.




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