The partial shutdown of the federal government is a serious concern to me and others here at BHA. This agency provides rental assistance to approximately 2,400 households in Kitsap and Mason counties. While we aren’t federal employees, we do receive funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), one of the federal departments that is currently closed until the White House can come to an agreement. The funds are used to help pay rent for participants in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and to provide affordable rent for those living in BHA-owned properties.
In addition to providing local families with rental assistance, BHA is also a contractor for HUD in 4 states (Washington, Hawaii, Utah, and Nebraska) through our Contract Management Services (CMS) division. CMS is a pass-through of rental assistance from HUD to 631 properties on behalf of over 28,000 households.
My shutdown concerns are two-fold and grow more serious with each passing day a resolution is not reached. These concerns relate to: 1.) payments to local landlords for Housing Choice Voucher rent subsidies and the effects on their tenants who are voucher holders, and 2.) our time-sensitive responsibilities to owners and agents of HUD multifamily properties in the states where we are HUD’s designated Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA) Contract Administrator.
We’ve been assured by messages from HUD that funds are available to pay local landlords under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program through February 2019. This is about a $1 million dollars a month impact to the local Kitsap and Mason county economy where we operate an HCV program. We are getting increasingly frequent calls from both participating HCV landlords and their tenants who are concerned about the shutdown and its impact on rental subsidy payments. All we can say to them is what we’ve been told by HUD – rent assistance is available through February 2019. If the shutdown continues, we will have to dip into reserve funds and these funds may not be sufficient to cover what we are contractually obligated to pay rental property owners. If they do not receive their rental assistance, landlords will also be faced with difficult decisions as they have obligations to provide quality housing which depends on funds from tenant rent and subsidy.
I’m deeply distressed about the erosion of trust locally related to the shutdown. We have an already difficult time encouraging landlord participation in the Section 8 HCV program. On top of this, the most vulnerable members of our community, the poor, elderly, and disabled, are distressed about the prospect of losing their homes if rent subsidies aren’t paid timely.
Relative to our work as a PBRA Contract Administrator in 4 states, our CMS division has a responsibility under contracts with HUD to perform a variety of tasks including payment of rental subsidies to private owners of 631 properties. HUD pays monthly administrative fees to BHA in exchange for our services. We are expecting service payments through January 2019, but it’s unclear if HUD will have necessary authority to continue to make payments after that if the federal shutdown continues. This means BHA staff may not be paid for the work we do. CMS staff and others at BHA that support them will be working without the financial compensation contractually obligated to us by HUD. Nevertheless, we will continue to fulfill our duties as HUD’s Contract Administrator as best we can. With HUD staff being furloughed because of the shutdown, bottlenecks have been created and property owners will not receive their monthly subsidy payments.
I and others at BHA feel helpless by the effects of the partial shutdown of the federal government. As an organization that serves the local community and its vulnerable populations, we are distressed and disheartened by factors outside of our control. Like the rest of the nation, we look for an end to the shutdown. In the meantime, we will do our best to try to answer your questions but we cannot predict what the future holds.Click here for BHA Vision, Mission and State of Values.