On April 22, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that its budget would be reduced retroactive to January. The state faces the prospect of cutting anywhere between 250 and 400 vouchers. The local housing agency, The Missoula Housing Authority, decided to dip into its reserves in order to keep its 754 Section 8 vouchers, or rental subsidies, afloat. But MHA Director Peter Hance says the budget figures change on a daily basis: “It’s an absolutely moving target.”
While MHA hasn’t been forced to cut vouchers yet, its clients are now stuck in Missoula. In the past, says Hance, people have always been able to take their Section 8 vouchers with them when they uproot and replant. “The real benefit of Section 8,” says Hance, “is the ability to move,” which gives Section 8 recipients the freedom to seek better education, better jobs or improved medical care, he says. Now, HUD has refused to pay for increased subsidies when families change location.
“We’ve had people who had started the moving process and had to come back to Missoula,” says Hance.
Debbie Morrison is the housing supervisor for the Section 8 rental assistance program in the housing division of the Montana Department of Commerce. Her office administers 3,600 vouchers statewide. Her office, too, now prohibits people who use vouchers from moving out of state. And like MHA, she had to stop several families who were in the process of moving. Asked when they might be able to reverse the freeze, Morrison gets a little sarcastic: “When HUD gives us back the rest of our money,” she says.
While Morrison gets sassy about the cuts, Hance gets political.
“This is what’s being done before the election,” says Hance. “One can only imagine what will happen after.”