Sequester threatens area housing assistance programs

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Barbara Tweed, an Arvada resident, has counted on a monthly payment from the Arvada Housing Authority for 11 years, but with the partial shutdown and the sequester in place, Tweed worried that they would take it all away.

Late last week, the U.S. Congress passed a bill ending the temporary shutdown of the U.S. government, but while those temporary effects are slowly resolving nationwide, other issues, such as cutbacks from the 2013 sequester are having a major impact on local, community housing programs.

Currently, more than 480 Arvada low-income households utilize the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and Community Development Block Grant programs, which provide rent subsidies and services to very low-income families throughout Arvada. In 2012, these programs began receiving an annual 6 percent budget cut. This cut affects the services the Housing Authority can provide according to Arvada Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Manager Ed Talbot.

“It (the sequester) severely cut federal resources for a host of services and activities the federal government funds with no ability to wait and apply reductions at different levels,” Talbot said.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Section 8 and CDBG programs while once able to help 508 Arvada families and individuals, now can help 485, and that number is expected to decrease in the new year.

“2014 is very difficult to project given the “fluid” situation in the U.S. Congress but we would expect it will end up being even less than 485,” Talbot said.

Each month, the Housing Authority spends around $800,000 to fund the costs of administration, payroll, and aid more than 1,000 Arvada residents through these programs, but due to low funding and turnover rates, the waiting list for Section 8 vouchers was closed, and those on it could have a two to three year wait to receive assistance.

“I was on a waiting list for a year and a half,” said Tweed, “at that point it wasn’t rough, but within a year and a half of signing up, my husband passed away and I was so grateful to have signed up.”

According to Talbot, many factors, such as new budgetary approaches, need to fall into place for this to be resolved.

“The U.S. Congress must return to a logical, systematic, and rational approach to setting annual Federal budgets that cover both revenue and expenditure levels,” he said, “…so that the many entities that depend on federal support or services can receive adequate funding to provide the services they are expected to provide.”