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Thursday, Nov. 4, 2004 03:05 am

From bad to worse

The Springfield Housing Authority still has not determined how to implement drastic funding cuts to the area's Section 8 program despite assurances that a plan would be announced this week.

For the time being, SHA has backed away from its plan to plug the funding gap by seeking reimbursements from Section 8 landlords dating back to January.

Such a move would have cost some landlords thousands of dollars and prompted many to leave the voucher program, which aids more than 1,800 low-income families in the area.

Still, SHA will likely have to cut payments to landlords to shore up funding. Experts predict that this action could cause a wave of evictions [see Spivak, "The unkindest cuts," Oct. 21].

SHA leaders for weeks have tried to squeeze additional money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the program. SHA had budgeted $11 million for the Section 8 program for calendar year 2004. But HUD announced in the spring that SHA's Section 8 budget had been slashed to $8.5 million.

Since then, SHA has issued several letters to Section 8 landlords that have only muddled matters.

The most recent missive, dated Oct. 20 and signed by SHA executive director Willis Logan, instructs landlords to ignore the contents of a letter sent two weeks earlier. "Information the SHA receives each day has been and continues to be tentative and uncertain," Logan explains in the letter.

SHA finance director Doug Warren says that even if HUD were to provide the emergency funding -- which is unlikely -- cuts to the program would only be delayed by a few months. "It would Band-Aid the problem through the end of the year," says Warren.

That's because Congress is considering further cuts to Section 8 for the next fiscal year.

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