Fewer housing vouchers available in Lewiston, Auburn

LEWISTON — Housing officials in Lewiston and Auburn say they are preparing for the worst — continually diminished federal funding for Section 8 vouchers under sequestration, with less help available to house families in need.

Officials started bracing for cuts last fall, imposed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. In January, all federally funded public housing authorities were subject to 5 percent cuts. Those cuts, coupled with the continuing budget resolution to freeze spending at 2012 levels, have resulted in fewer housing vouchers available for elderly, disabled and low-income residents.

The Auburn Housing Authority will spend an estimated $2.4 million on vouchers this year; the number of available vouchers is 560, down from 590 last year.

In Lewiston, the annual Section 8 budget is about $6 million; the number of vouchers dropped from 1,140 last year to 1,050.

The result is fewer families getting assistance and longer waiting lists for housing.

In Lewiston, more than 1,000 people are waiting for housing. In Auburn, the list is the highest ever, with more than 2,000 people waiting for housing assistance.

According to a Portland Press Herald report Thursday, as many as 22 families in that city could lose rental assistance by the end of the year. It's part of a trend across the country as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has reduced Section 8 funding.

“Nationwide, this has been quite a blow, one that has taken quite a while to manifest itself,” Lewiston Housing Authority Director Jim Dowling said.

Housing officials in Lewiston and Auburn do not expect to take vouchers away from families. They are attempting to close gaps through attrition. As families turn in vouchers, those vouchers are not being reissued.

“It’s messy and it will get worse unless Congress does something to fix it,” said Richard Whiting, executive director of the Auburn Housing Authority.

When the city is not able to issue vouchers, Whiting said, and there is no turnover, the waiting list gets backed up. He said that, under the current conditions, even maintaining a list has “a certain dishonesty” because even though people are adding their names, there’s not “a snowball’s chance in hell” they’re going to get help under current funding.

The 5 percent cut under sequestration will grow to 10 percent next year, Whiting said. Because Section 8 funding is based on the previous year’s expenditures and not on current need, the funding disbursements will slowly collapse.

Whiting estimated that 10 years from now, the Auburn Housing Authority will be funded at 35 percent of current levels. Unfortunately, he said, that doesn’t mean housing needs will be reduced, and families who rely on Section 8 vouchers are nervous.

“The elderly, of all people, are the most scared,” Whiting said, and even though housing authorities work to offer the highest protection to the elderly and disabled, these are the people who are most nervous about funding cuts.

“The voucher program is a really good program,” Dowling said, “because it gives people a maximum choice in where they want to live.” Without this assistance, people often are “living with relatives, living in unsatisfactory housing, or families are paying an extraordinary proportion of their income on rent."

Dowling said housing officials are concerned because Congress has been unable to advance spending bills for domestic discretionary programs.

“Sen. (Susan) Collins fought valiantly to break through in July, but even her efforts didn’t succeed,” Dowling said, so “now what we’re looking at is a bit like last year, where we’re back to hearing about the need to raise the debt ceiling and should the sequester be extended another year.”

He added, “We’re trying to project what we might do in 2014, but right now the range of outcomes is pretty broad. We have to prepare for the worst, which would mean continued attrition from our program.”


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Bob Wright's picture

Frank, sequestration was

Frank, sequestration was Obama's idea!

FRANK EARLEY's picture

OK BoB...........

PROVE IT....................

Holding Obama blameless is

Holding Obama blameless is also being dishonest.

As a Republican, I will go on

As a Republican, I will go on record saying that there is enough blame to go around for both the Republicans and Democrats to share the blame equally for the mess that this country is in! For anyone to hold their party blameless is just being dishonest.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I'm not saying anyone is blameless...........

Just think back to the final minutes leading up to the sequester. Which party couldn't even muster enough votes to pass their own bill? I feel the sequester is the result of severe disorganization, within the organization. The Republicans dropped the ball. John Beahner(I know, i can't spell his name) couldn't get two Republicans to agree on what time of day it was. They wanted the sequester all along as a tool to diminish Obama's approval rating. The problem was, at the last minute the party fell apart and basically imploded. Not what I would call a strong functioning party. You can blame Obama for this disaster all you want, but I don't recall the Democrats turning to jelly at the last minute. I also don't think "equal" can be used fairly at this point either..........................


The wagon pullers

We are always hearing from the wagon pullers that they want only to cut benefits from the moochers, you know, the tattooed 20 year old dope smoking game playing bum. What they won't tell you is that they really want to hurt the kids, the mentally ill, the nursing home patients, the disabled and the retired. At least in spite of their spoken protestations it is the way it works out in the long run. It is just fine with them when the kids lose their Head Start and the mental patients are cast adrift without their needed services and end up shooting up a mall or in prison and the shelters and food pantries lose their funding and people get kicked off their medical insurance benefits and seniors end up homeless. Then we hear things like "They should have planned better" or platitudes like "We can only do so much" all of which is just saying in effect "I have mine and too bad for you".

Bob Wright's picture

Claire, do really believe the

Claire, do really believe the garbage that you are spewing is true. Lay off of the kool aid, it is not good for you.

Bob Wright's picture

Okay, who is going to be the

Okay, who is going to be the first one to blame it on LePage?

My bet is on Jerry Aripez.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Nice try Bob....

He may not be personally at fault, but he is a Republican. We all know how the sequestration came about. So I guess you could say he's guilty by association...............................


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