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Some public housing recipients may see rents increase

BRATTLEBORO—Ripples caused by federal budget sequestration of 2013 continue to make waves for public housing.

According to Brattleboro Housing Authority Finance Director Mary Houghton, BHA has decided to lower its “payment standard.” For its part, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has decided to decrease the standard for fair market rents in the Brattleboro area for 2014.

In plain English: Among other things, sequestration has squelched the amount of money HUD and the BHA can pay towards rents, and some residents receiving rental assistance through the BHA will pay more out of pocket.

The out-of-pocket increase will average $100, said Houghton.

Houghton added that the BHA is reducing its contribution in order to stretch the federal money it receives among as many program recipients as possible.

The housing authority wanted to avoid “redacting” people’s housing vouchers, said Christine Hart, BHA’s executive director. The federal spending cuts have already affected other programs BHA residents rely on, such as 3SquaresVT, Vermont’s food stamp program.

BHA has 140 housing vouchers from HUD, said Hart. HUD has allotted Brattleboro area 187 baseline vouchers.

The number has dwindled. As voucher holders have given up their vouchers for many reasons, the BHA has not had the money from HUD to reissue the vouchers.

The state estimates it’s short 1,000 vouchers, caused by HUD’s ratcheting down its payments to housing authorities, said Hart.

Houghton said that public housing authorities have long “turned every stone” in search of monies to support programs: “We’ve been working smarter for 20 years.”

In general, the federal government no longer develops public housing, said Houghton.

Hart agreed: “We have to be creative and figure out how to keep people housed,” she said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #230 (Wednesday, November 20, 2013). This story appeared on page A2.

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