Housing benefits slashed for hundreds of Vermonters - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Housing benefits slashed for hundreds of Vermonters

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Doug Killary's apartment search hasn't been easy.

"I checked a few places out there, but it's the same old story," he said. "It all amounts to money."

Something Killary doesn't have much of. He lives paycheck to paycheck. And with no money in the bank, finding a decent apartment in Chittenden County was tough. And the Burlington Housing Authority says it's about to get worse for Killary and other low-income Vermonters.

"The fair market rents for 2013, they dropped drastically," said Claudia Donovan, the director of rental assistance at the Burlington Housing Authority.

Donovan says fair market rent is the amount the federal government says housing costs in the area.

In 2012, the feds said $896 would cover rent and utilities for a one-bedroom apartment in the greater Burlington area. This year that number dropped to $788. For families needing a three-bedroom, in 2012 the feds put the cost of rent and utilities at $1,439, but lowered that to $1,289 for 2013.

Donovan says these cuts impact how much the housing authority can offer Section 8 recipients. Typically rental assistance requires a client to contribute 30 percent of their income and the housing authority pays the rest. But the lower federal share is leaving a bigger bill for renters in the program.

"If they can't afford it they can be evicted," Donovan said. "They could become homeless. They may have to move in with relatives. So, it is a serious concern."

The changes won't go into effect for current Section 8 renters until Oct. 1. New participants and people moving will be affected immediately. Housing officials say negotiate with landlords, don't move if you don't have to and be willing to compromise.

"I would have been in a tent, literally in a tent," Killary said.

Killary found an efficiency. It's small and expensive, but it's a roof overhead. Others who need help will not be as lucky. Sequestration is expected to take an additional toll on Section 8. The housing authority is preparing for a 6 percent funding cut, which means 100-150 people will lose their benefits.

"It's a heck of a way to run a business," Donovan said. "You don't know how many people you can keep on the program, you don't know where your funding is coming from, when it's coming, if it's coming and how much you're going to receive. It's a pretty dire thing."

Housing authority officials say people caught abusing their benefits will be dropped first. In the past they've been able to give people second chances. There is currently a 5-7 year waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance, and until the sequester situation is resolved, the housing authority will not be giving out any new rental vouchers.

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