Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Poor America

According to a recent report, "The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's 'haves' and 'have-nots' continues to widen."

Tonight at a Council budget work session we heard about our public housing program's predicted funding shortfall for this year and the major reason behind it:

The Public Housing Program is funded solely through the federal government and rent from the public housing residents.

Not only has the funding from the federal government declined, but there has been a major shift in the way HUD wants these programs to be administered.

The federal government is no longer adequately funding any of the overhead and administration costs that are vital to the management and success of the program.

Instead, the feds are forcing housing programs to seek funding from outside sources.

The source of income that is being encouraged is to select tenants who can pay more rent. For example, giving preference to the family who is in the 50 percent of median income as opposed to the family making 20 percent.

In other words, the bottom of the safety net is about to break for some folks as HUD moves toward a profit-based model.

And so it falls to the Council to fill the gap. From what I heard my colleagues say tonight, it's looking like this is another perspective we share with leaders in Madison, Wisconsin: "Madison's progressive tradition of providing quality public housing may depend upon Madison's ability to resist the federal government's efforts." At least I hope so.

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