The failure of Congress to pass a budget is being felt by the poorest Americans, as cuts to subsidized housing groups continue. The Budget Control Act, commonly known as the sequester, has slashed a trillion dollars in federal funding to public programs across the board. The New York City Housing Authority, (NYCHA), the nation’s largest public housing authority, announced that over 200 million dollars in funding have been lost since the sequester took effect on March 1st. Overall, as many as 150,000 households that rely on vouchers to pay rent could be affected by the cuts. Most housing authorities are dealing with the cuts through canceling new vouchers that were due to be issued this summer. Other units may have to raise rent or default on mortgages.
John Rhea said in a press release that the mandatory cuts “severely hinder” the work of the housing authority. The NYCHA chairman continued by assuring residents the commitment to maintain their developments and meet the goals to eliminate the backlog of repair requests this year. Other ways the organization is dealing with budget cuts have included lay-offs, a hiring freeze and possible furloughs. The plan to issue 5,000 new vouchers had to be canceled.
The voucher program for subsidized housing began with programs created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development during President Nixon’s term. This is the first time the program has experienced any significant cuts. The vouchers make it possible for low income households, especially seniors or those who are disabled, to be able to afford private rental housing. If the vouchers are lost, it is possible many will lose their apartments and become homeless or institutionalized. Some building owners rely on the vouchers to keep their building running, and some landlords also worry about defaulting on their loans. This could put thousands of people on the streets and threaten the safety and health of not only New York, but cities across the country.