HUD: Housing authority must decrease funding for rental assistance vouchers

MANSFIELD – The Tioga County Housing Authority got bad news for its rental assistance program with the start of the new year, said Executive Director Kelley Cevette during the authority’s monthly meeting.

“The department of Housing and Urban Development has recalculated our reserve amount that we can use to bring us through to the end of 2014, from $78,000 to $12, 000,” she said, adding that amount was used up this month.

Without the reserve funds to make up shortfalls in funding, expenses will need to be reduced, and the authority is working with HUD accomplish that goal.

One of the steps, effective March 1, will be to lower the value of the rental assistance vouchers.

“We will have to lower the current payment standards from 125 percent to 100 percent of fair market rent values as published by HUD,” she said.

That extra 25 to 30 percent will have to be picked up by the renters, and the new policy does not exclude the elderly, disabled or veteran populations, she added.

There are currently 203 people using vouchers.

In a caveat adding to the predicament, Cevette said that, even if authorities could find another source of funding, they would not be allowed to use it.

The 125 percent “emergency standards” were granted by HUD in 2012 after the influx of the natural gas industry when rents got higher.

“Tenants and landlords will be notified about the March 1 change in their payments. The contract amount will not change for landlords, only the tenant’s portion,” she added.

In February, Cevette said HUD funding will be $46,000 and expenses estimated to be $56,000.

“If it doesn’t work we may have to take people off. Those on the program the longest, except elderly and disabled, are off first,” she said

The authority had been using reserve funds to make up the difference in funding it wasn’t getting from HUD, and Cevette said she doesn’t know why the agency is “taking those funds away from us now.”

Lura Clark, who manages the program, said there may be some funding available in the form of “set aside” funds.

“What they have done is establish the shortfall team to give guidance on how to reduce expenses on the program. Going into 2015 we should be getting more funding,” she said.