PDT Staff Writer
Due in part to sequestration and other federal budget cuts, Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority has decided to close its Section 8 housing waiting list.
“We found out in March that sequestration was going to kick in, but we still did not know what our budget was going to look like and still do not have hard numbers and this is for Jan. 1 of this year,” said Peggy Rice, Executive Director of PMHA.
Rice explained how the funding is broken down for Section 8 housing from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“For Section 8 housing we get two different pots of money. We get Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) funding to cover rent subsidies to private landlords. We also get funding to cover the administration of the program,” Rice said. “We’ve been taking a huge hit on our administration fee for several years. As a result, we’ve been running that program for a couple of years with a deficit.”
According to www.pmha.us, “the Section 8 Rental Voucher Program increases affordable housing choices for very low-income households by allowing families to choose privately owned rental housing. The public housing authority (PHA) generally pays the landlord the difference between 30 percent of household income and the PHA-determined payment standard which is 110 percent of the fair market rent (FMR). The rent must be reasonable. The household may not choose a unit with a higher rent than the FMR and pay the landlord the difference.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) affords an eligible family to rent a residence within Scioto and Lawrence County from a private landlord. There are requirements that include, but are not limited to, unit passing an inspection, appropriate size of rental property, amount of rent being charged, and agreement of property owner. To qualify for Section 8 you must be income eligible as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, pass a criminal background check and not owe money to any other subsidized housing program.”
According to the website, the waiting list in Lawrence County has already been closed due to extensive number of people on the list.
Rice said within PMHA they operate two programs, Section 8 and Public Housing which includes, Wayne Hills, Farley Square, Alexandria House, Hudson House, Cliffside House, Miller Manor, Lett Terrace and other scattered sites.
PMHA owns and maintains 886 rental units located in Portsmouth, New Boston, Sciotoville, West Portsmouth and Wheelersburg consisting of houses, apartments, townhomes and high-rise buildings.
When is comes to the current state of the Section 8 program for PMHA, “as of the first of May we (PMHA) had 578 people on our (section 8) program. Our average rent subsidy was $368 dollars per-unit,” Rice said.
Rice said the Section 8 housing program contributes $2.3 million annually to the local economy.
She said when the math is done based on what the expected budget cuts are going to be, the program would be running a deficit.
“We’re going to experience a shortfall by Dec. 1, when we would be paying rent for the month. We would be in the hole with our HAP money by about $60,000, if we continued as we are. ” Rice said. “We have 575 families on our waiting list for our Section 8 program as of last Tuesday. We have 578 currently in the program so, our wait list is as big as our program is.”
Rice said the current waiting list is three years long and goes to show the need for this type of program is out there.
“Instead of cutting anybody off the program, we are trying to do as much as we can, internally to keep the people that we are currently serving and provide services by regulation we have to provide,” Rice said. “We we do not anticipate taking anyone off of our wait list, between now and the end of the year, simply because there is no money.”
To make up the projected deficit Rice said, PMHA is implementing a number of measures.
“We are going to begin implementing a $50 minimum rent, which says those of you that live with us that pay anywhere from $49 to $0 towards your rent, your going to be effected,” Rice said.
She said they would try to accomodate those in the program without any income as best as they could.
“The only reason we are implementing a minimum rent is because have to do what we can to save the program,” Rice said.
Rice said some of the other actions they are taking to save money within the Section 8 program include repurposing staff, working to establish a direct deposit program with landlords and various other measures.
“Instead of taking applications, we need the time be able to get some stuff done that has to be done. To keep taking applications at this point in my mind is almost cruel, when we can’t help the 575 people that are already on there,” Rice said. “It’s a very sad day when your poor people are out on the street, it hurts me. It hurts me to think we’ve got a program and a waiting list for that program that’s the same size. The need is there we just have to get the federal government to help fund some of it.”
She said applications will continue to be taken for public housing.
For more information about PMHA visit, www.pmha.us or call 740-354-4547.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.