Lehigh Valley

Federal 'sequester' to hit families in need of housing help

Federal 'sequester' to hit families in need of housing help

The federal budget sequester is about to hit low-income families hard, especially those looking for housing help. 

The Allentown Housing Authority said it's set to lose $500,000 in federal money.  The AHA's director said that will mean fewer families will get housing assistance.

The need for help is already so great, families that applied back in 2008 are just now in line for vouchers.

"The need is really significant in the community," said Daniel Farrell, AHA executive director.

The problem is the Lehigh Valley is growing, but the number of affordable apartments is not. That means higher rents and more families struggling to find a place to live.

"We're now working on 2008, 2009 applications that we've received for housing," said Farrell.

It's a problem he said is about to get even worse.  Thanks to the "sequester," those automatic budget cuts from Washington, Farrell said AHA its set to lose money for three programs.  One is public housing itself, but the lion's share is for vouchers that help people pay for private apartments.

"The assistance payments that go to the landlords," said Farrell.

Right now, Farrell said about 1,300 families get housing vouchers.

"We could lose 70 or 80 families that we're assisting now," he said.

There is also a trickle-down effect for the rest of us, since payments to landlords could also be reduced.

"That's less money for mortgages, less money to pay taxes, less money for that landlord to improve that apartment," said Farrell, who believes lawmakers have forgotten the poor. "It's really frustrating, and you kind of question what the commitment is to the community. When the [air traffic] controllers were all off last week and everybody got up in arms about flight delays and everything, but you don't really see people in the street about housing shortages."

The Allentown Housing Authority is not part of the city budget, so Farrell said more money from there is not likely. To save money, they plan to do more with fewer staff and push for fewer regulations from Washington. Farrell said there are no plans for layoffs at this point, but staff will likely not be replaced as they leave.

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