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PUBLISHED: 12:56 PM on Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Federal cuts mean tighter rules for rental subsidies

Due to an 8 percent reduction in federal funding, the state's rental voucher program for low-income families is being tightened to limit the number of bedrooms for which a family can qualify for assistance, based on its size and circumstances.

The Public Housing Division of Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) received the go-ahead this week from its board of directors to proceed with a proposed revision of the subsidy standards that will result in maximizing the number of families across the state receiving housing assistance.

Up until February of this year when HUD lowered the amount of money available for the program, an average of about 4,100 low-income families and seniors had been receiving assistance. The funding cutback required AHFC to place a moratorium on the issuance of new vouchers, which so far has reduced the total number of families participating to about 3,800.

"The federal cuts may be beyond our control, but we would be less than responsible if we didn't act to maximize the resources we have available to serve the greatest number of families," said Dan Fauske, Executive Director/CEO of AHFC. "Tightening subsidy standards is one way we can accomplish the goal," he said.

Although specific details of the new standards are just being developed and won't take effect until October, they are expected to affect about 15 percent of the families now receiving rental assistance under what AHFC calls its Housing Choice Voucher program, also referred to as the Section 8 program.

Prior to these changes necessitated by the federal government cutbacks, the Public Housing Division generally had more discretion in approving number of bedrooms for a family. The tightened rules may require some families to choose between downsizing to another unit or paying more for the one they currently occupy.

According to Fauske, Alaska's congressional delegation is fully briefed on the issue and is working to do what it can to restore the federal cutback in the program.

AHFC is a self-supporting public corporation with offices in 16 communities statewide. It provides statewide financing for multi-family complexes, congregate facilities, and single-family homes, with special loans for first-time home buyers, low- and moderate-income borrowers, veterans, teachers, nurses, and those living in rural areas of the state.

AHFC also provides energy and weatherization programs, low-income rental assistance in 17 communities, and special programs for the homeless and those seeking to become self-sufficient.

AHFC contributes more than $100 million annually to Alaska's State budget revenues through cash transfers, capital projects and debt service payments.


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