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Here's how the federal government shutdown could hurt thousands of low-income Cincinnati residents

'I'm just praying they're telling the truth'
Posted: 10:01 PM, Jan 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-19 06:36:57Z
Could reducing child poverty be this easy?

CINCINNATI — A local advocacy group is warning that the federal government shutdown threatens thousands of Cincinnati’s most vulnerable residents.

More than 25,000 Hamilton County families rely upon housing funded by subsidy contracts with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a study conducted in 2017 by LISC Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky.

“While they are not the highest profile victims of the impasse, low-income people served by HUD affordable housing programs are already being negatively impacted,” according to a news release issued Friday by Cincinnati-based Affordable Housing Advocates. “The longer the shutdown continues, the greater its harm will be, and the lowest-income people – seniors, people with disabilities and families with children – will suffer the most.”

The partial government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history, and there has been no sign Democrats and Republicans will be able to solve it via compromise any time soon.

Residents and housing organizations are feeling the impact of the shutdown, and it will only get worse as the weeks pass, according to the news release. The advocacy group said those impacts include:

  • Eight properties in Hamilton County that have rent subsidy contracts are set to expire in December, January and February, adding up to 282 households. Without HUD open and operational, those contracts cannot renew. That affects property managers’ ability to pay for maintenance, security, property taxes and other expenses.
  • Affordable housing developers can’t finalize the financing they need to start construction on new housing. That puts entire new developments at risk by increasing costs.
  • The city of Cincinnati hasn’t been able to resolve pending lawsuits involving HUD-subsidized rental properties, which strains city government resources and creates uncertainty for residents.
  • The Legal Aid Society and Housing Opportunities Made Equal have heard from many clients who are afraid they will lose their housing if the shutdown continues. The release said Legal Aid would try to give legal help to all low-income tenants threatened with eviction because of a loss of rent subsidies or their employment during the shutdown.
  • Fair housing investigations are stalled at HUD until the shutdown ends, according to Housing Opportunities Made Equal.
  • The shutdown also could delay federal funding that local organizations use to serve people who are low-income, homeless, disabled or those with HIV/AIDS. That funding delay, the news release said, “can result in a gap of services or even worse, homelessness.”
  • The 25,000 affordable homes that rely on HUD rental assistance contracts will probably run out of federal funds if the shutdown continues into February, the release said. That would disrupt their ability to pay companies that work for them, utility bills and other operating costs.
  • A shutdown that disrupts HUD rental assistance payments will hurt a larger group of private landlords that have low-income tenants with Section 8 vouchers. Those are landlords that own buildings with between one and four housing units, who usually don’t have a lot of extra funding and will probably struggle to pay their own mortgages and expenses.

An email to a HUD spokesperson seeking a response to the news release received an automatic reply stating: “Most HUD programs have been temporarily interrupted and most HUD employees have been told they cannot work. … We regret any inconvenience the government shutdown may cause."

So far, residents of properties owned and operated by the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority are not panicking, said Delorise Calhoun, president of the Jurisdiction-Wide Resident Advisory Board that advocates on behalf of CMHA tenants.

“They told me it could go on for a little while, and they have enough funding to last for a while,” Calhoun said of CMHA management. “I’m just praying they’re telling the truth.”

Calhoun said there are federal employees that live in CMHA buildings who have missed paychecks as a result of the shutdown.

“They said they had letters to give to the management,” she said.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To reach Lucy, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.