Low Income Community Cries Foul on Section Eight Changes

By KBJR News 1

June 1, 2012 Updated Jun 1, 2012 at 10:10 AM CDT

Caren Newport currently receives section eight for her young daughter and her to live in a two bedroom duplex.

But her eldest daughter is moving home to attend UMD in the Fall, and she worries about the implications of this household change.

"Section eight has told us that if she moves in with us, that changes our household, so if she decides at any point that she wants a roommate or if she decides after four years when she graduates that she needs to move out and get her own place, then my younger daughter and I have to move to a one bedroom."

Starting June 1, 2012, section eight housing is getting cut. The revisions include but are not limited to a change in voucher size.

"One bedroom, per two people. Regardless of their relationship," explains Pam Benson of the Duluth Housin and Redevelopment Authority.

Until now, the rules on voucher sizes took age and gender into consideration, but rental prices in Duluth have been rising, while federal funding has stayed the same.

"We get about $358 per month from HUD to help each person each month with the rent. We on average pay out $398. So that's a 9% shortfall per person," says Pam.

Pam Benson, the director of rent subsidy at the Duluth Housing Authority, says it was either change voucher sizes or yank people off all together.

"Looking at the whole picture, it was decided that this was the best of all of our bad choices."

But some community members fear the worst.

"There are pedophiles out there and it's like giving them an open door," says Caren.

Angie Miller of Community Action Duluth says they first heard of the changes through a few clients who received phone calls from HRA.

She worries about the extra stress these changes will add, and the inappropriateness of having a dad and a teenaged daughter, or two teenagers of the same age and opposite sex living in the same room.

"Teenage children of opposite sex sharing a room? That's just not a good idea. There's no privacy in a situation like that. I just think it's going to add a lot of stress to families that don't need any more stress in their lives," says Angie.

Many are also disappointed in how the changes have been communicated.

"It was posted at housing on their bulletin board, but no one goes in there to look at the bulletin board, they go in there to conduct business. So it seems like they're kind of sliding it in through the back door," says Caren.

HRA says they weren't trying to be secretive, but they have been avoiding these cuts for months, and it finally got to the point where their reserves were too low and they had no other choice.

Those who are currently receiving Section eight will be "grandfathered in". But if one makes a change to their household status, moves, or is new to section eight, they will have to abide by this new "two people per one bedroom" rule.

For more information, you can contact the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority.