Federal cuts to have effect on Section 8 housing

May. 29, 2013 @ 07:10 AM

The Western Piedmont Council of Governments is bracing for significant losses to its housing voucher program, known as Section 8, potentially affecting hundreds of low-income recipients across Caldwell County.

The council made public at a meeting Tuesday night multiple changes to the structure of its housing program as a way to help offset about a 7 percent loss in funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agency also is facing an additional 12 percent reduction in funds for administrative purposes as a result of sweeping cuts in federal spending, known as sequestration.

Proposed changes include easing limitations on the number of people permitted per room and reducing the amount of vouchers offered to qualified low-income recipients. Under the proposals, the council also would reduce rental subsidies by 10 percent, forcing some tenants to either pay more or arrange payment alternatives with their landlords.

Still, “we’re not exactly sure what it’s going to look like,” Stephanie Hanvey, director of the Section 8 housing program, said after Tuesday’s meeting, referring to the financial strength of an agency that has not faced such losses in about three decades.

The council’s housing program offers vouchers to more than 1,000 qualified low-income recipients across Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties, according to Anthony Starr, assistant executive director of the council. The region’s 28 municipalities pay the council a total of $180,000 a year for services like grants and other forms of support.

It is the only housing agency serving Caldwell, he said, where slightly more than 350 people rely on such vouchers.

“We hope that, at the end of the day, we’ll be serving just as many families in Caldwell,”  Starr said.

But that could prove challenging amid a significant loss of financial support to a service that has long struggled to meet a continual need.

“We’ll never have enough money to serve everyone,” said Hanvey, whose program currently is not accepting housing applications as a result of high demand.

A public hearing for the changes is scheduled June 27.