Schumer: Proposed Cuts Could Cost Thousands Of New York Families Their Homes
Administrations FY05 budget proposal would slash HUDs Section 8 housing voucher program that provides housing for almost 53,000 families in upstate NY by $1.6 billionSchumer plan: Restore full funding to HUDs Section 8 housing voucher programSchumer: Administrations proposal could cost 1,011 families in the Capital Region their homes; Central New York 859; Rochester/Fin
US Senator Charles E. Schumer today warned that 6,400 upstate families spanning nearly every county could lose their housing under the Administrations proposal to cut funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Developments (HUD) Section 8 housing voucher program by $1.6 billion in FY05. To avert this from happening, Schumer said the program, which provides 53,000 families in upstate New York with vouchers to cover the cost of private rental housing, must be fully funded.
"This unprecedented move by the Administration boggles the mind," said Schumer. "It is hard enough to make ends meet these days with the cost of living creeping higher every day and gas prices through the roof. For the Administration to make housing less affordable to those most in need seems like a mean spirited and needless way to save a few dollars in the face of overwhelming deficits."
The federal government's Section 8 housing program gives vouchers to poor, disabled or elderly tenants through a city or state's housing agency, which the tenant then can redeem them with any private landlord. Tenants pay 30 percent of their income in rent, while the vouchers pay the rest, up to a limit set by the federal government. The program is popular with tenants, landlords, and local governments alike because it provides needed housing assistance but also lets people shop for housing on the private market without the need for new public housing projects.
The Administrations FY05 budget proposal would cut funding for the Section 8 Program called the Flexible Voucher Program (FVP) by $1.6 billion in 2005. Under the proposal these cuts would grow to $4.6 billion by FY2009, a 30 percent reduction in the program over the next 5 years. According to housing experts, the cuts would force housing agencies to either drop families from the program or charge higher rents to voucher holders. To deal with the cuts solely by assisting fewer households, housing agencies would have to shrink the program by more than 250,000 families nationally next year and by about 600,000 families about 30 percent of the entire program in 2009. To deal with the cuts by raising rents instead, agencies would have to charge an average of about $850 more per family in 2005 and about $2,000 more per family in 2009, even though most of these families have incomes well below the poverty line.
Schumer released a report today showing that thousands of families in upstate New York could lose their homes if the cuts go through. Specifically:
" The Administrations proposal could cost 1,011 families in the Capital Region their homes;
" The Administrations proposal could cost 859 families in Central New York their homes;
" The Administrations proposal could cost 967 families in Rochester/Finger Lakes their homes;
" The Administrations proposal could cost 1,579 families in the Hudson Valley their homes;
" The Administrations proposal could cost 201 families in the North Country their homes;
" The Administrations proposal could cost 228 families in the Southern Tier their homes;
" The Administrations proposal could cost 1,546 families in Western New York their homes.
To avert the proposed cuts that could wreak a devastating effect on New Yorkers throughout the state, Schumer today wrote to HUD Secretary Alphonso Johnson and the ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senators Christopher Bond and Barbara Mikulski, urging them to restore the program's full funding levels. "The Section 8 program is fundamental to the survival of many lowincome families in this country. The potential shortfall threatens the Section 8 program itself by effectively forcing public housing authorities to fund less vouchers currently in use, including enhanced vouchers and by ruining landlords' confidence in the program," Schumer wrote. "Stated simply, cutting this program could literally mean cutting the homes of thousands of New Yorkers. I implore you to restore the full funding."
In addition to the proposed cuts, a recent HUD proposal calls for only reimbursing participants in their highlysuccessful Section 8 voucher program for the costs of rents last year, even though Congress gave HUD enough money to keep up with rent increases. Last month, Schumer, in conjunction with Senator Edward Kennedy, introduced legislation to amend the FY 2004 VA, HUD Appropriations Act so that Section 8 vouchers are funded based on a housing agencys actual per unit costs. This move would restore the method HUD used to calculate and renew vouchers prior to the new HUD proposal.
Last year, HUD tried to turn Section 8 into a block grant program for state governments using a complicated formula to determine aid instead of basing it purely on the number of needy people. Schumer, who is a Ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, helped lead the successful fight to block this move.
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