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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 10 June 2009

Some 285 households in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties, most of whom are families with children, seniors and people with disabilities, will potentially become homeless as of July 1, activists charge. 

On May 26, the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority sent letters to 285 Section 8 housing assistance voucher recipients stating that as of July 1, they would no longer receive rent assistance.

The officials announced the cuts at a time when the State of Oregon is reporting a 37 percent increase in homelessness across the state's urban and rural communities, according to the Oregon Opportunity Network, which is calling for immediate, emergency measures to keep people in their homes.

The group is a statewide coalition of over 40 nonprofit affordable housing and community development organizations that work to support its members through advocacy, communications, peer learning, and best practices development.

"This is bureaucracy at its worst," said Mike Cook of NeahCasa's Emergency Housing Program.  "There's no way that small non-profits like ours, landlords and tenants, or even the state can pick up this massive shortfall alone. HUD needs to step up to the plate – not our most vulnerable families."

Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, or NOHA, which administers the vouchers for elderly, disabled and low-income individuals and working families, sent the letters to the effected families with just barely over a month before the crucial rent subsidies would terminate, putting the families in a desperate situation.

NOHA made the cuts after the Department of Housing and Urban Development informed them that they would be given more than $600,000 less in needed HUD funding. HUD determines the level of federal subsidy based on how much each participant earns, in some cases covering more than 90 percent of their rent.

HUD has accused NOHA of failing to correctly forecast the resulting financial need and take measures accordingly, but the HUD cuts are fall-out from Bush Administration policies aimed to reduce the effectiveness of the Section 8 program, activists say.

Four years ago when NOHA was faced with a shortfall, the state legislature drew on its resources to fill the gap. Now, with the state facing it's own billion-dollar deficit, a bail-out is considered unlikely.

In the letter to residents, NOHA Executive Director Carol Snell said they hope to have the funding reinstated at the end of the year, at which time tenants who have been terminated from the program could have their Section 8 vouchers restored. But for people on very limited incomes who relied on the subsidy for a significant portion of their rent, the rest of the year looks bleak.

"HUD has to find a way to make things work," says Israel Bayer with Street Roots, Portland, Oregon's street newspaper. "If not, it's yet another glowing reflection of our broken system."


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