Federal money comes through for the voucher program

THURSDAY, JANUARY 3—When the Federal government went into shut-down mode last month, a lot of voucher tenants wondered what would happen to them if their landlords didn’t receive the subsidy part of their rents in January. It turned out that the subsidies were paid on time even though 95 percent of HUD employees were home on furlough.

HUD is the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, the agency in charge of most federal housing activity, including the voucher programs. Apparently the January subsidy payments were on automatic pilot.

CHA Executive Director Michael Johnston told ACT that there do not seem to be any problems for voucher tenants at this time. He has heard from the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities that HUD has the funding to cover February payments too, and intends to bring in staff to make those payments if necessary.

Last month Johnston reported to the CHA Board that the agency has enough reserves to pay voucher subsidies for up to two months even if the shutdown were to block funds from Washington. With the pledge from HUD, that means the voucher programs can weather the storm at least through April 1.

There is no guarantee that subsidies would continue to be paid out if the shutdown dragged on beyond April. But a lot of landlords and developers would be extremely upset if that happened, and not many politicians of any stripe are ready for a confrontation with the real estate lobbies on Capitol Hill.

—bill cunningham