Tag Archives: wisconsin

old man (2)The more I try to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and those who struggle to afford housing, the more I receive comments like this one:

“The best thing Dane county or even better Madison can do is stop having section 8 housing. Property values will rise, property taxes and crime will decrease and schools will be better. We don’t need to keep bringing people into our city who suck our resources and dollars while not being a contributor.”

Or this one:

“You have to let these people know what impact they and their families have on us tax paying, law abiding people, and that it would be a great idea if they left Madison and went back to where they came from. It is getting serious here… and we feel that  people such as yourself have forgotten that fact.”

These two individuals think they know what type of person is on the DCHA’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and it got me thinking, exactly who is on the program? Being a big fan of statistics I decided to look into it, and even I was surprised. Here is what I found:

94% of program participants make less than 50% of County Medium Income or $28,350 per year for an individual or $36,450 for a family of three.

92% have an income of at least $5,000 per year. 64% make at least $10,000 and 41% make at least $15,000 per year. Only 3% have no income at all.

49% of program participants work. 52% receive either Social Security or pension payments.

53% of program participants are either elderly or disabled. 40% have minor children in the home and only 6% are not elderly, disabled or caring for children.

The average household size is 2.6 family members.

40% of program participants have been on the program for 5 years or less. 69% have been on the program for 10 years or less. Remember that 53% are elderly or disabled and have little hope to get a job and get off the program.

Last but not least, of the 461 families on our Section 8 waiting list 88% currently reside in Wisconsin and 87% in the 608 area code.

So when you say “Get a job” the vast majority of those able to do so already have a job. When you say “Go back to where you came from” the vast majority are where they came from. And when you say “Get off the program” the majority of participants, because of their age or disability, have little hope to get off the program.

So this is my challenge to you; now that you know exactly who the Section 8 program participants in Dane County are, how should we address their housing issues? And before you say end the Section 8 program remember that between the DCHA and the CDA in Madison, this program keeps 2,600 families off the streets and directs over 14 million federal dollars to Dane County landlords every year. Without this program our local economy would crash, emergency services would be overrun and people would be dying in the streets. Crime will go up because people will be desperate, property values will decrease because of the sudden glut of vacant rental units and schools will be worse because students without a home perform poorly. Is that the Dane County you envision? Because it is not my Dane County.

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How the Sequester will affect Dane County’s most vulnerable

homeless

As we head closer to the sequester people are trying to figure out how the automatic budget cuts will effect everything from health care to airport flight delays. While some cuts may be more annoying than others, some are sure to be life threatening. Last Friday Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) across the country received an email from Sandra Henriquez, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Public and Indian Housing, a division of HUD. The letter attached warned PHAs to expect a 6% cut to their Section 8 program for the remainder of 2013.

6% percent may not seem like a lot but let’s break down the numbers and their impact on low-income families in Dane County communities outside of the City of Madison. If you are not familiar with the program, The Housing Choice Voucher program (often refereed to as Section 8) allows families whose income falls below HUD published limits to apply at their local PHA for a voucher. This voucher allows them to select the housing of their choice and pay 30% of their income in rent, a level that the federal government has determined to be affordable. The balance of the rent, up to HUD’s publisher Fair Market Rent, is then paid to the landlord by the PHA in the form of a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). If the Sequestration cuts take effect starting April 1 HAP payments to PHAs will be cut by 6%.

For the Dane County Housing authority this means a $36,120 reduction in HAP payments every month. With the average HAP payment being about $600, this cut means that 60 families will lose their rent assistance. That’s 60 families that are now homeless, 60 vacant housing units not collecting rent and 60 requests to local shelters for emergency assistance. When family members become homeless they are less likely to be able to keep a job or find a new job. Children are less likely to attend school and if they do, perform at a lower level that their peers. When people become homeless they are more likely to face substance abuse issues, mental health problems and incarceration. All of these costs far exceeding the $600 per month rent subsidy that was lost because we couldn’t agree on how to fix the budget.

So will the sequester lower your taxes? Will it lower the unemployment rate or the crime rate? Will it improve the economy? Or is it more likely that the across the board spending cuts will increase homelessness, increase unemployment, increase crime, push us back into recession and pass the cost from the federal government down to the local, county and state level? 60 new homeless families in Dane county is scary but remember I am only talking about the communities outside of Madison. When you add in the cuts to the city and the other 71 counties in Wisconsin we are facing a homelessness crisis starting April 1, 2013. And for what? What did we gain? It is time for our representatives in the federal government to fix more problems that they create.