Demand for housing vouchers remains high

CITY HALL — With thousands still on the waiting list for Section 8 low-income housing vouchers, city officials say the program’s rising costs and shrinking budget are preventing additional enrollment.

There are 1,532 households enrolled in the federally sponsored program, which distributes vouchers to subsidize rent payments.

But incomes among voucher recipients have dropped during the protracted recession, and with the federal funding remaining constrained, officials say the program is running a deficit.

“Weak economy has translated into declining incomes for working families on the program, and declining incomes for seniors on the program,” said Peter Zovak, the city’s deputy housing director. “As a result, our housing assistance has had to go up to compensate for that gap.”

The funding crunch comes even as nearly 6,000 residents remain on the waiting list. And while the city has roughly 60 vouchers available, they remain frozen as housing officials grapple with the rising costs.

“There’s no money to help those families,” said Cindy Williams, an administrative analyst for the city.

The City Council on Tuesday is slated to consider appropriating $600,000 from the program’s roughly $4-million reserve to fill this year’s budget gap. City officials were forced to draw down the reserves in 2009 when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, changed funding formulas.

The budgetary limitations are compounded by the city’s administration of roughly 1,500 additional vouchers from other housing agencies, the majority of which are Los Angeles recipients who choose to live in Glendale.

Housing officials on Tuesday will ask the City Council to appropriate an additional $1.3 million in program reserves to cover the rising costs of the “portable vouchers,” which will eventually be reimbursed.

While Glendale is reimbursed for the voucher costs and receives a fee for administering the portable vouchers, Los Angeles housing officials still retain 20% of the federal administrative funding — increasing the burden on the Glendale program.

“There are only a few cities, agencies, in the country that have that problem,” Zovak said.

Glendale officials are warning that the budget picture could worsen next year if HUD does not allocate more funding to meet the program’s rising costs.

“In this way, you could pretty well exhaust what is a pretty small reserve in a year very easily,” said City Manager Jim Starbird.

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