Housing program at risk after budget cuts

The Vermillion Housing Authority (VHA) has taken another hit with the latest round of federal budget cuts.

All told, VHA will see 32 percent cut in administration costs, a continuation of cutting it has seen over the past few years.

Last year�s administrative budget was $72,965, which means this year�s budget will be approximately $49,617 after the decrease in funding.

�That�s a dramatic cut,� said David Thiesse, executive director of VHA. �In 2006, our admin was $95,000, so in four years, we�ve basically gone in half.�

The program � which provides rental assistance through the Section 8 Housing Choice Program � is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

�The feds give us X amount of dollars a month to provide rental assistance to families, so we administer those funds,� explained Steve Howe, president of the VHA board. �Right now the feds give us enough money to serve 200 families, and we have 150 on the waiting list. So you�re talking about more than 350 families in a town of Vermillion�s size that are utilizing or need to utilize federal rental assistance, because they just don�t earn enough.�

Thiesse added, �I started in 2005. We�ve put $4.5 million into the community to landlords, and we�ve assisted just under 11,000 families in those five years. That�s pretty much the population.�

The program does not include students or people under 24 years of age who are without dependents, Howe said.

�We�ve eliminated the students. They have other housing options,� he said.

Although a 32 percent cut is large, it actually is lower than the budget under which VHA will find itself operating.

�We�ve been operating on a continuing resolution since the first of the year, and basically now that they�ve got the budget set for 2011, the money that they did pay us in the first few months was more than they should have, according to the new budget. So, they�re cutting us back more,� Thiesse said.

In the past, VHA has been able to find additional sources of funding.

�The city has given us some additional funding,� Thiesse said. �Basically, we were running in the red, and the city got us back into the black. They gave us around $10,000 to get us back into the black.�

However, this will not always be an option, he said. As a result, VHA has had to make some changes to be able to work within the new administrative budget, starting with cuts around the office.

�It�s definitely limits our service ability,� Thiesse said. �Our tenants don�t have the access to the office (because) our hours are cut. Our staff is cut. Basically, we�re a two-person office to begin with. �

�My program manager who was full-time has been cut down to 24 hours a week, and I�ve been cut down to 32 hours a week,� he said.

The office now operates under a four-day work week.

�We just cram everything into less time,� Thiesse said. �We�ve got the same amount of work, just less time to do it. We�re closed on Fridays now, and the program manager is now down to three days a week, and I�m here on Mondays alone.�

Howe said VHA operates under two types of funding: The administrative, which is being cut, and the money for the vouchers themselves.

Thiesse added that if the administrative budget is further cut in the future, the office may leave Vermillion, and the vouchers would be sent to the next-closest agency, which would be Yankton.

�Over time, Yankton has no obligation to keep those vouchers in Vermillion, so as time goes, they could slowly all move over to the Yankton area,� he said.

VHA has �not really� heard much about the cuts from its tenants as of yet, Thiesse said.

�It doesn�t affect their funding at this point,� he said. �They�re going to recognize that they�re not going to have as many options to come into the office and do the annual re-certifications. Because May and June are large certification months. We�ve got in the next two months, probably 50, 60 people to schedule appointments. Their options are going to be limited now.�

Thiesse and Howe both said they hope VHA can continue to be a presence in the community.

�It�s a great program,� Thiesse said. �There�s not a lot of businesses that put that kind of money into the community every year. A lot of people don�t know about us, but if we leave there�s going to be a financial impact on the community.�

Howe added, �These types of programs are vital, and they�re at risk right now.�

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>