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Sequestration: Cuts to Montgomery County's Housing Authority

Part Three of a Four-Part Series: How budget cuts may impact the housing authority.

Sequestration: Cuts to Montgomery County's Housing Authority

As Democrats point fingers to the Republicans and Republicans point fingers at the Democrats, the one thing not happening in Congress is the stoppage of sequester. As it stands, the impact of the changes will begin as early as midnight on Thursday.

But how will this change impact those in Montgomery County? Another hard-hit department may be that of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Joel Johnson, executive director of the Montgomery County Housing Authority knows this fact all too well. Funded through the U.S. Department HUD, his department’s funding is in jeopardy with the fiscal year only half over.

“We receive four monies from four pots,” said Johnson. “Depending on Congressional allocation, the amounts vary.”

Two types of funding, Johnson said, fall under the voucher program.

To read part one of the series on the impact of county offices, click here.

To read part two on the impact to county seniors, click here.

“That is federal rent subsidization, utilized by households in the private marketplace,” said Johnson. In other words, privately-owned and –operated landlords can receive the rent.

“One big line item is for rent money, on behalf of program participants,” said Johnson. “A second line item is administration fees, paid for to staff and administer the programs.”

The other two “pots” of money support rental units owned and operated by the housing authority.

Of top concern with sequestration, Johnson said, would be cuts to the voucher program.

“It seems sequestration could have an impact of perhaps around 35 percent on the administration fee side that could be cut out of the budget,” he said. “On the rent-to-owner side, we could be impacted by probably 8 percent.”

Johnson is worried about the impact on his staff.

“On the administration side, we are carefully looking at our operation, we always have been very careful to function efficiently,” he said. “We’ll just have to be more careful moving forward.”

He hopes to prevent layoffs.

“We are hoping with some reserve funding, we are able to avoid short-term impacts on our staff,” said Johnson.

The Montgomery County residents that rely on the program, however, may not be as lucky.

“Under the voucher program, 2,600 participate in the county, all over the county,” said Johnson. “We are present in 90 percent of the 62 municipalities with our voucher program.”

He said 57 municipalities have 2,600 active leases, serving that many households with support.

“These are families with children, elderly, disabled,” said Johnson.

While the department has not yet gotten word on actual cuts, Johnson said he has been following trade organizations’ takes on the change.

“The impact could be up to a 25 percent reduction on the public housing operating fund,” he said. “Money comes from Congress to operate HUD.”

The county’s housing authority operates seven locations in the county, with 615 total public housing units.

Until Congress breaks down the reductions, the department will remain unsure of its future, but will try to create the smallest impact on its residents as possible.

“A cut would be on the operating subsidy, the money we get to operate the building,” said Johnson. “We have no plans on closing any [of the housing locations], we’d scale back some services.”

To read part one of the series on the impact of county services, visit this link.

To read part two of the series on the impact to area seniors, visit this link.

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