Tenants getting federal rent subsidies have yet to be affected by the partial government shutdown, now in its fourth week.
But big problems could arise for those renters and their landlords should the shutdown last until March.
Local housing authorities serving about 125,000 Section 8 tenants in Southern California say rent payments will run out after February if the shutdown continues. And the mere uncertainty of future payments may impact those now reaching the top of years-long waiting lists, making it harder to find a home, local and national housing officials said.
A campaign backed by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition expressed concern Tuesday, Jan. 15, that some Section 8 recipients “will have to either pay their rent in full or could face eviction.”
“(We) continue to do business as usual to avoid affecting tenants and owners. But the shutdown is unpredictable, as it can end tomorrow or in six months,” said Danny Huynh, manager of the Garden Grove Housing Authority, which funnels $2.6 million a month to about 2,600 Section 8 landlords. “If the shutdown continues beyond March, any housing program using federal funds will be affected.”
It’s the same for all 26 housing authorities serving Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“We continue to stay optimistic and trust that the shutdown will be resolved before it starts impacting our agency and the people it serves,” said a statement on the website for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, which serves about 45,000 Section 8 tenants.
Under Section 8, the federal government subsidizes rent payments for low-income households, reducing the amount tenants pay to around 30 percent of their income. Waiting lists for the program can range from six to 10 years. And once a tenant gets a voucher, he or she must then find a landlord willing to accept payment under the program.
About 2.2 million U.S. households get assistance under the so-called “housing choice” program, with three-fourths of them earning less than 30 percent of their area’s median income.
Since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is part of the shutdown, only funding approved before the Dec. 22 stoppage can be spent. That funding runs out in February.
“This means … private landlords will not receive payment (after Feb. 28), risking the safety of participants — low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities who depend on HUD assistance for safe, stable housing,” Elisa Vasquez, communications manager for the L.A. County Housing Authority, said in an email to the Southern California News Group.
The shutdown prompted San Bernardino County housing officials to halt the issuance of new rent vouchers.
“We are not pulling new individuals/families off the voucher waiting list,” said an email from Ana Gamiz, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Housing Authority, which serves 9,300 voucher holders.
Judson Brown, manager of the Santa Ana Housing Authority, said the uncertainty that payments will continue may impact new voucher holders searching for a place to rent.
“Some landlords (may) have increased concern about payment on the voucher if the shutdown continues,” Brown said.
In unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County, that mainly impacts homeless families since they’re the top priority for a voucher program serving about 24,000 households, Vasquez said.