Dozens of Lawrence area residents have been able to stay in their homes this year, in spite of cuts to federal housing funds, because local housing officials were able to move other funds into the Section 8 program.
Carrie Lindsey, resident service director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, said most of the 732 subsidized units in the county are occupied. The authority administers Section 8 vouchers, which program participants use to pay their rent.
“When the income is cut to find the housing, it not only hurts the tenant but it also hurts the private sector,” Lindsey said.
Both the tenant and the housing authority pay the landlords of Section 8 housing. If funds are cut, the landlord loses rent.
After losing $77,000 in federal funds this year, the housing authority found money in the Moving to Work program. Started in 1998, that program also funds public housing and Section 8 assistance for those who are moving off welfare and into the job market.
Beverly Hyatt, from the housing authority office, said the Moving to Work program creates a rent structure in line with a family’s income so that they can afford the rent and have some disposable money to spend or save.
“We have had to reallocate funds from the Moving to Work program to stay afloat,” said Hyatt. She said the agency’s overall budget had been cut by 11 percent. Hyatt was able to allocate money among various programs to avoid service cuts.
Lawrence was relatively lucky. Housing authorities in other cities had to find other ways to save money.
For the past year, the Wichita Housing Authority, for example, has closed its office every other Friday, putting all 39 employees on furlough, said Mary K. Vaughn, director of the Wichita Housing and Community Authority.
In Lawrence, officials are grateful that they will end the year with no layoffs or furloughs.
“I’ve heard of all the cuts and adjustments that Wichita is having to make,” said Lindsey “As weird as this year has been, we would have been in bad shape if we did not have MTW.”