Sequester could push some renters out of Section 8 housing

Sequestration has left housing authorities with a stark choice: Raise rents, or eliminate some Section 8 vouchers altogether.

Of all the programs in the federal budget, Section 8 housing doesn't have much fat to cut. The program provides rent vouchers to families earning an average of less than $13,000 a year. But sequestration has left housing authorities with a stark choice: Eliminate some vouchers altogether, or ask people to contribute more.

In the lobby of the Los Angeles City Housing Authority, Chanel Henderson waits with her two year old daughter, Heaven, sitting on her lap. Henderson tells me she has never heard of the sequester. But as a result of sequestration, she may soon see her rent rise by as much as $200 a month.

"That's a lot for people who are already struggling," Henderson says.

Henderson is a single mother and a full-time nursing student. Her main source of income is a monthly welfare check. She says a $200 rent increase may be too much.

"With my income now, I already don't have enough left over at the end, after paying rent and bills."

Up to 24,000 Los Angeles families -- half the people in Section 8 -- will see a rent increase before the end of this year. But according to Doug Guthrie, President and CEO of the city's Housing Authority, that may be the best available option.

"Although we're impacting a large part of the population, what we don't want to do is actually have to take people off the program entirely," Guthrie says.

The reason people are in Section 8 housing is because they have nowhere else to turn. Most are senior citizens, or people with disabilities, and families with children. When rents go up, Guthrie says, "Sadly, I believe that is going to have a negative impact on homelessness."

For its size, LA has more homeless people than any city in the country. In recent years, though, the city has made progress by building permanent supportive housing to fight chronic homelessness.

"Section 8 rental subsidies are right at the heart of that solution," says Greg Spiegel, Public Policy Director for LA's Inner City Law Center. "If Congress wanted to pass a budget cut that would make the most people in Los Angeles homeless, this is exactly the cut they would do."

Spiegel says saving money on subsidies only to cause more homelessness is penny-wise and pound-foolish. 

"When people are homeless," he says, "there's an increased use in emergency rooms, healthcare costs, mental health services, the court system, policing, shelters. These are all very expensive services."

But those services, like homeless shelters? They've also been hit by cuts to the federal budget.  

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So, what you are trying to say here is, that it's ok for folks who are working and paying taxes to pay higher rent, higher insurance, higher gas, higher electric, but it's not ok to ask people who pay little if nothing for their place on this earth to pay just a little bit more, is that the jist here?

I'm a life long Democrat, but I have a huge problem with this Section 8 housing scam. First, it should ONLY be for seniors 55 and over and those people who are mentally or physcially handicapped. We should NOT be paying for someone else to have fatherless children and be on welfare and live free of charge for LIFE, that is not the American way to do things.

I'm happy to see that Chanel Henderson is going to nursing school and hopefully that will lead to a full time nursing job so she can get off of welfare and section 8 altogether. However, there is sooo much corruption and abuse of section 8 it is not even funny. I have googled and found story after story of Housing Authority staff stealing vouchers, selling them to friends and family, embezzlement, and this is happening in every city big or small.

Now that the government has turned off the money spigot, the "grandma is going be put out on the street" propaganda has started. First, don't buy what these Housing Authority people tell you. They have the power to chose who if anyone will lose a voucher. No seniors or handicap people need be affected by this at all. Those other people who have been on section 8 for decades need their vouchers taken, if any need be.

I'm tired of working my ass off and seeing these welfare mom's with 6 kids living in a luxury apartment complex on section 8 and they don't work, or pay for anything. Don't buy the hype that most of these people work, they don't. Most of these people do not pay ANY percentage towards their rent. It's time the budget for this program was stripped to the bare bones for seniors and the handicap only! If you can have a baby you can get your lazy ass up and get a job.

Write your elected officials and tell them to stop any additional funding for Section 8 and that they change the program (going forward) to be for seniors and the handicap only.

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