Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) held three town hall meetings with residents at senior complexes operated by the Long Branch Housing Authority (LBHA) where he shed light on the crippling effect the across the board federal budget cuts, also known as the sequester, are having on housing programs in New Jersey and nationally. The sequester has caused housing authorities to nearly stop issuing new rent vouchers.
"So many New Jerseyans are struggling as a result of the severe shortage of affordable housing across the country. Now is not the time to cut anti-poverty and anti-homelessness programs like those used at the Long Branch Housing Authority. In these times we should increase access to affordable housing through these programs, not slash them," said Pallone. "That's why I am so frustrated by Republicans in Congress and members of the Tea Party who refuse to stop the mindless budget cuts. People need affordable places to live to help put them on track to the middle class, and it is wrong that the GOP slash and burn sequester is putting people out on the street. Congress must reverse these cuts and work together to come up with a budget that grows the middle class instead of one that takes the roof over people's heads."
LBHA serves about 1,372 families and individuals, 784 of whom live through assistance from the Housing Choice Voucher program that provides decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Due to budget cuts over the past several years and recent federal cuts from sequestration, LBHA has been forced to downsize bedrooms to avoid kicking people off the program and has had to rely on donations and volunteers to maintain their social services programs.
Nationally, the Housing Choice Voucher program helps 2.2 million low-income households to rent modest housing at an affordable cost, and the average household income of families receiving Housing Choice Vouchers is $12,500. Unfortunately, now many newly issued vouchers have been rescinded, leaving some people homeless or doubled up with family and friends.
Estimates show that federal cuts as a result of sequestration negatively affect more than 440,000 households and an additional 1.1 million people by decreasing affordable housing opportunities and community development services. According to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, about 125,000 individuals and families could lose assistance provided through the voucher program and be at risk of becoming homeless.
The need for affordable housing and community development services far exceeds current funding levels. Since 2009, the percentage of households most in need of assistance has grown by 19%. Currently, only one in four eligible households receives a housing voucher or some other type of federal rental assistance, and there are long waiting lists for assistance in nearly every community.