HUD Housing Voucher Fund Increase Proposed By Clinton & Cuomo FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 29 Dec 1999 13:03:17 -0800 (PST)


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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/19991228/aponline233248_000.htm
FWD  Washington Post - December 28, 1999

     CLINTON PLANS HOUSING VOUCHER FUNDS

     By Anne Gearan
     Associated Press Writer
     Tuesday, Dec. 28, 1999; 11:32 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton is proposing a $690 million expansion of a
federal program to help the working poor afford decent houses and
apartments, administration officials said Tuesday.

The money would pay for 120,000 new housing vouchers nationwide, Housing
Secretary Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo said the expanded voucher program, which the White House planned to
announce Wednesday, would be included in Clinton's budget proposal for
fiscal 2001. That budget plan is due on Capitol Hill next month.

The vouchers would expand an existing $9.5 billion program that now serves
as many as 1.7 million poor households.

"The need for affordable housing is higher than ever - 5.3 million American
families need affordable housing" but cannot find it, Cuomo said. "It's
actually a cruel irony of the strong economy," which often drives the price
of formerly affordable housing beyond the reach of the working poor, Cuomo
said in an interview.

The vouchers work like this: Poor families, most of them earning at or near
the federal poverty level of about $17,000 a year for a family of four, can
apply for extra money to help make rent payments.

Families must contribute 30 percent of their income, with the balance paid
by the voucher. The amount of the vouchers varies by family, depending on
housing needs and expense, and is capped at what officials define as the
local fair market rate.

Vouchers are distributed by local housing authorities under the
administration of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The local authorities typically have long waiting lists for subsidized
housing.

Clinton proposes setting aside 18,000 of the new vouchers for homeless
families and 32,000 for families moving from welfare to work, said a White
house aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The new voucher request would help more working people live where the jobs
are, the aide said.

"In today's economy, about two-thirds of new jobs are being created in the
suburbs - far from where many low-income families live," the aide said.

Congress approved no new housing vouchers for four years after Republicans
assumed control of both the House and Senate in 1994. Congress did approve
50,000 new vouchers for 1999 and 60,000 new ones for the fiscal 2000 budget
- fewer than Clinton requested but still what Cuomo called "a tremendous
win."

Cuomo said this latest White House voucher proposal probably would be
whittled down by congressional Republicans.

Julie Dammann, chief of staff to Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., said,
"Vouchers are a short-term solution" that may add new families to the ranks
of subsidized renters but do little to ensure they remain in stable housing
situations in the future.

Tens of thousands of tenants across the country have lost their subsidized
HUD housing - or risk losing it -; as landlords drop out of the federal
program known as "Section 8" to seek higher rents on the open market.

"HUD has been maybe a little too focused on new vouchers, because it looks
like you're helping more people - a big welcome mat at the front door -
while you're losing others out the back door," Ms. Dammann said Tuesday.

Bond, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on HUD, was among
bipartisan lawmakers who took $100,000 away from Clinton's 2000 voucher
request and put it into so-called sticky vouchers.

These are subsidies that a tenant may keep even if their landlord opts out
of Section 8. Bond wrote to Cuomo this month to urge him to begin making
use of the sticky voucher program, Ms. Dammann said.

Over a period of 2 & 1/2 years, ending in December 1998, nearly 100,000
units of HUD housing have been lost, according to the private National
Housing Trust.

END FORWARD

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