For October’s Community Meeting at Homes for Families, we were joined by Gloria Meneses , Director of Occupancy at Boston Housing Authority (BHA), who spoke to us about the impact of federal sequestration on BHA and its federally funded housing programs. Before we dove into that conversation, we chatted a bit about the potential impact the federal government shutdown could potentially have on the BHA and other local housing authorities. Also, Diane provided an update on the work being done to ensure that, should welfare reform be taken up in the House in the coming weeks, it is done fairly and effectively. Here are some highlights from this conversation:
ØThe federal shutdown has had, thus far, no impact on the day-to-day operations at BHA.
However, should the shutdown continue, the certainty of future rent payments to landlords on behalf of their Housing Choice Voucher (HCV, aka Section 8) households. While a timeframe specifically for BHA is uncertain, it is important to note that at the release of the Greater Boston Housing Report Card at the Boston Foundation this morning, DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein indicated that the HCVs administered by the state through the regional housing nonprofits (MBHP, South Shore Housing, CTI, etc.) will not be able to make good on payments to landlords as soon as November 1st if the shutdown continues beyond this month.
Ø Federal sequestration has had a significant impact on the day-to-day operations in BHA’s Leased Housing Division (note that the following list does not address impacts on the public housing side of its operations). With approximately $1.5 million cut from its annual budget due to sequestration, BHA has taken efforts to avoid harming households and has made up for the cuts in these and other ways:
o No new HCVs being issued
o Households that were approved for and screened for HCVs were told they would not receive the vouchers
o Decreasing the fair market rent for HCVs from 110% to 100% (which will translate to increased tenant portions of rents for many who may relocate with a current voucher)
o Minimum rent requirement for HCV households of $50 (NOTE: this policy change has yet to be implemented, but BHA has put folks on notice that they will be providing 30 day notice when they plan to)
o Transfers from project based voucher placements to mobile are frozen
o Households must now report any increase in income of $200/month or more within 30 days, as opposed to at next recertification
o Elder services/resident coordinators were defunded (they are currently working with the City of Boston in an attempt to revive these critical services)
o Significant cut to staff in all areas of operations
o Mandated furloughs for some staff
Ø Federal sequestration has also impacted the Public Housing Division at BHA:
o Staff cuts
o Cuts to funding for capital development projects
o No direct impact on households yet
Ø Other highlights and information from BHA:
o BHA remains at 98% occupancy and reports that not many units are currently off line due to disrepair
o BHA will continue to honor the homeless priority for families in HomeBASE for their state public housing only – NOT for federally funded housing
o BHA receives, on average 1,000 new applications each week and currently has 40,000 households on its waitlist
o Some other smaller housing authorities have been forced to terminate HCVs due to sequestration
o The Housing Bond Bill will be coming for a vote before the legislature (perhaps as soon as next week), and one version of it contains a provision that would make it nearly impossible for undocumented households to access state-funded housing, including both public housing and the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), by placing their names on the ends of waitlists. Not only would new applicants be kept out, but also undocumented households currently receiving assistance through either program would be removed from the programs.
Ø Welfare reform: Join us in urging legislators to support low income families and call for a stop to unjustified attacks on our welfare system.
o The Massachusetts House of Representatives is likely to propose a welfare reform bill very soon. We fear that it will contain restrictions on eligibility and make it even harder for families to get the benefits they need for their children’s safety and stability.
o The Senate already passed a bill in June that includes several provisions of great concern. For example, it would require clients to do job search before their applications for TAFDC cash benefits can be approved, even though they may be in crisis and have no child care, money for transportation, access to the internet or phone service.
o Follow the link here to send a pre-written letter – editable for personalization – that will be delivered directly to your state representative.
o To review a comprehensive 2-page fact sheet that highlights the ‘Dos and DON’Ts’ of what the coalition is seeking in reform, should it come up in the House, click here.
o For more information, contact Diane Sullivan at 617.227.4188 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Next meeting: Wednesday, November 13th 11:00 a.m.
*Shout out to 1) Flannagh** (HFF’s intern for the 2013-2014 school year) and DIane for working together to make this community meeting blog post come alive!
**Flannagh fits right in at HFF and stepped our social media game up within her first week! Follow us on Instagram at HomesForFamilies! #OurVoice