A coalition of housing and real estate organizations, the National Association of Realtors and the National Multi Housing Council among them, issued a statement in protest to new limits in federal money for housing vouchers issued through public housing authorities.

Congress restricted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s funding for rental-housing vouchers, also called Section 8 vouchers, to limit the cost of the program. Earlier this year there were about 2 million low-income households receiving Section 8 vouchers, and more than half of voucher recipients are families with children, while about 40 percent are seniors or persons with disabilities.

The new policy will affect “less than half of 2,500 public housing authorities” that participate in the voucher program, according to a HUD statement. The new restrictions require HUD to pay vouchers based on a cost reported to the department as of Aug. 1, 2003, with increases available if public housing authorities can document increases in local inflation rates.

In addition to the Realtors group, which has about 1 million members, and the National Multi Housing Council, an association that represents the apartment industry and the estimated 15 million households in the country who live in apartments, other coalition members include: the American Association of Homes & Services for the Aging, the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing, the Institute of Real Estate Management, the Institute for Responsible Housing Preservation, the National Affordable Housing Management Association, the National Apartment Association, the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Leased Housing Association, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“We are shocked by HUD’s decision, particularly since Congress specifically appropriated enough funding to cover all of the Section 8 vouchers expected to be used in fiscal year 2004. It is estimated that HUD’s new voucher renewal policy will leave $175 to $310 million of the funds Congress appropriated for vouchers unspent this year at the same time as it threatens to force some families into homelessness,” the groups said in a statement.

“This policy penalizes everyone. It clearly penalizes the voucher holders who, through no fault of their own, now risk losing their housing assistance. It penalizes the housing agencies that, in response to Congressional criticism for not using all their vouchers, have been actively working to increase their voucher utilization rates. And it penalizes the property owners who agreed to accept the Section 8 vouchers.”

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Send tips, feedback or a letter to the editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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