City set to downsize rental subsidies

Facing possible federal cuts to an affordable housing program known as Section 8, Glendale officials have approved a new policy that could be used to start terminating the program's rental subsidies.

The policy, approved Tuesday by the City Council in its dual role as the Housing Authority, will only be put into action if funding shortfalls occur.

For now, officials said, it's unlikely any rental terminations will be needed. But while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has increased Glendale's share of funding for 2012 by $1.1 million, or 8%, federal housing officials have warned Glendale to have a policy in place in preparation for future cutbacks.

The funding bump comes after Glendale was hit with a $1-million cut in 2011. And of the 1,592 Section 8 vouchers administered by Glendale, just 1,483 are active due to lack of funding, according to the city.

With the funding increase this year, the city's senior community development supervisor, Carolina Siegler, said she hopes a few more families will be taken off the waiting list and given vouchers.

“At this time, we do not see any terminations in 2012,” she said.

Even if the termination policy is triggered, the city would take several steps to minimize its impact, officials said. First, those who have recently received vouchers but have not yet found a place to live would be put back on the wait list. Second, some who may be in housing with too many bedrooms — currently about 20 households — may be downsized.

The city also would check to see if there are people who can voluntarily withdraw from the program. Those who are single, not elderly or disabled, would be among those terminated first. Then the city would terminate participants based on monthly stipends, with those getting the least exiting first.

The city currently has three participants who receive less than $100 a month.

Voucher holders who are terminated from the program due to insufficient funding would be placed on the waiting list. The already is jammed, with more than 5,000 names on it, but the terminated families would have first priority if more money came along, according to the city.

City officials would be notified of proposed terminations beforehand and HUD would have to authorize the moves.

City Manager Scott Ochoa said local nonprofits that provide low-income housing services gave positive feedback about the policy.

In the next two months, the city expects also to begin criminal background screenings on all Section 8 participants to purge from the program those who no longer qualify. Participants are screened when they enter the program, but not typically after that. The screening, which will cost $110,000, would take about one year to accomplish and could be repeated again in five years.

Those who have committed violent crimes could be dropped from the program, making room for others on the wait list.

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