Friday, September 28, 2007

After tearing down public housing, will Section 8 end up on the chopping block, too?

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 10:30 PM

In last week's cover story, we looked at the Atlanta Housing Authority's plans to demolish a second massive wave of public housing — and how that might affect the city's poor.

Now, the futures of families living in the 12 housing projects scheduled for demolition might be more uncertain — thanks to President Bush's budget for fiscal year 2008.

When public housing is torn down, it is replaced with mixed-income communities — and most of the displaced families are handed a federal voucher for reduced rent, called Section 8. In Atlanta, the number of public housing units will have shrunk from 14,800 in 1995 to a mere 4,800 in 2010 — while the number of Section 8 vouchers will jump from nearly 5,000 to more than 13,000.

The loss of units bothers some housing advocates, who believe that public housing only should be replaced with actual hard and fast apartments. And they've expressed fear that the Bush administration will have an easier time slashing funding for vouchers than it would in making actual buildings disappear.

Those fears seem to be materializing in an analysis released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In a report called, ominously enough, "Housing Vouchers Could Be at Risk in 2008," the nonprofit compared what Bush wants to spend on Section 8 vouchers to what separate bills before the House and Senate propose:

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2008 would fail to renew 80,000 housing vouchers likely to be used by families in 2007, and the House appropriations bill would fail to renew 55,000 vouchers. In contrast, the Senate bill would fund all vouchers in use in 2007.

Thus the fate of public housing in Atlanta would go something like: tear down housing for the poor, replace with vouchers for the poor, watch as the feds stop funding said vouchers, face the reality that there's no place left for low-income families in our fast-gentrifying city.

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