A shutdown of the federal government is a serious concern to me and others here at BHA. This agency provides rental assistance to approximately 2,400 households in Kitsap and Mason counties. While we aren’t federal employees, we do receive funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), one of the federal departments that was recently closed while Congress and the White House debated on an agreement on appropriations for federal programs.
We use federal funds to help pay rent for participants in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and to provide affordable rent for those living in BHA-owned properties. In addition to providing local families with rental assistance, BHA is also a contractor for HUD in 4 states (Washington, Hawaii, Utah, and Nebraska) through our Contract Management Services (CMS) division. CMS is a pass-through of rental assistance from HUD to 631 properties on behalf of over 28,000 households.
My shutdown concerns are two-fold. These concerns relate to: 1.) payments to local landlords for Housing Choice Voucher rent subsidies and the effects on their tenants who are voucher holders, and 2.) our time-sensitive responsibilities to owners and agents of HUD multifamily properties in the states where we are HUD’s designated Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA) Contract Administrator.
During the most recent shutdown, we were assured by messages from HUD that funds would be available to pay local landlords under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program for the short term. This is about a $1 million dollars a month impact to the local Kitsap and Mason county economy where we operate HCV program. During the shutdown, we received frequent calls from both participating HCV landlords and their tenants who were concerned about the shutdown and its impact on rental subsidy payments. All we could say to them is what we'd been told by HUD – rent assistance would be available for the short term. If the shutdown had continued, we would have had to dip into our reserve funds and these funds would not have be sufficient to cover what we are contractually obligated to pay rental property owners.
I’m deeply distressed about the erosion of trust locally related to the most recent shutdown. We have an already difficult time encouraging landlord participation in the Section 8 HCV program. On top of this, the most vulnerable members of our community, the poor, elderly, and disabled, are distressed about the prospect of losing their homes if rent subsidies aren’t paid timely.
I and others at BHA felt helpless by the effects of the partial shutdown of the federal government. As an organization that serves the local community and its vulnerable populations, we are distressed and disheartened by factors outside of our control. We would like to see our elected leaders in Washington, DC avoid any interruption in services to their constituents.
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