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Housing Assistance Cuts Affect Low-Income Vermonters

Widespread federal budget cuts as a result of the sequester are starting to show impacts on a variety programs and services around the country. That includes Section 8, a lifeline for between 6,500 and  7,000 low-income Vermonters.

The Section 8 “vouchers” act as a method to close the gap in housing prices, allowing recipients to pay approximately 30% of their monthly income on housing.

"Within three weeks there were enough applications for a four-year wait under good circumstances."

To be eligible for the program, households must make less than 50% of the median income for their county. But income eligibility is only the first step in what can be a very long process of waiting.

Jo Ann Troiano, the Executive Director of the Montpelier Housing Authority, says the most recent federal budget cuts are the latest in a pattern of de-funding.

For a few years now, Troinao says that the federal money hasn't been enough to issue the number of allotted housing vouchers.

“In my case, I had as many as ten vouchers that we couldn’t issue. So there’s ten families on our waiting list that we can’t help,” says Troiano.

If Troiano’s office is not able to issue the total number of vouchers, she worries the federal government will allot even less money next year, as funding is tied to the number of vouchers issued year-to-year.

“It’s horrible. We closed our waiting list for four years, and we finally opened it back up in April. Within three weeks there were enough applications for a four-year wait under good circumstances,” says Troiano.

Troiano says right now, households currently receiving Section 8 assistance will not be kicked out.  However, when a household cycles off the program, that voucher will likely not be re-issued.

Troiano says that means families on the waiting list have very few options in the meantime.

“Some of them lose their apartments; some of them double-up, some of them get evicted. It’s very hard,” says Troiano.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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