Despite claims by the Robstown Housing Authority that federal funding cuts led to the displacement of nearly 100 Robstown families two weeks ago, the federal government said last week the event was the fault of the Housing Authority.
The executive director of the Robstown Housing Authority, Laura Young, said July 3 that the Housing Authority was forced to cut back a housing assistance program due to a lack of federal funding.
She said she had received notice from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that funding would be cut for HUD's Section 8 program.
"Due to federal limitations on Section 8 funding, we had to cut 98 Section 8 vouchers," Young had said.
The program assists individuals looking to rent a home on the private market, but may not be able to afford what the landlord is seeking monthly. The Section 8 program, which is handled through vouchers awarded to qualified applicants, subsidizes that rent based on a family's or individual's monthly income, Young said.
In most cases, rent for each month is usually 30 percent of the applicant's monthly income, with the Section 8 voucher paying the remaining balance, she added.
However, Patricia Campbell, regional public affairs officer for HUD, said July 10 that the cancellation in Section 8 vouchers had nothing to do with a lack of federal funding.
"Basically, what they chose to do was lease over their limit," Campbell said.
The Robstown Housing Authority has a baseline of 177 vouchers that it can issue and pay with using federal funds. However, if that number is exceeded, which the Housing Authority did by 43, federal funds cannot be used to pay for those additional Section 8 vouchers.
"They know very clearly that they cannot use HUD funding (for additional Section 8 vouchers)," Campbell said. "They have to use some other source of funding to support their vouchers…basically, they ran out of money."
However, a notice was sent to 98 residents June 24 that seemed to inform residents of an impending federal funding shortfall and cancellation of their Section 8 vouchers.
"Please be assured that the Housing Authority does not wish to evict you, and this termination of rental assistance is not a reflection on your performance as a Section 8 tenant or landlord," the letter stated. "We are compelled to do this because of strict limitations that have been placed upon us by federal regulations."
Young said previously that some of those impacted by the cutbacks had already contacted the Robstown Housing Authority office or begun making arrangements to find other places of residency, which they must do by the end of this month.
The Robstown Housing Authority will award about 55 Section 8 vouchers in November, Young said, which could bring the total of families under contract back up to 177. Those vouchers would not become effective until January 2009, though, she added.
Campbell said last week that she could not answer as to why the Housing Authority cut 98 vouchers, rather than the 43 needed to get back to the 177 voucher baseline.
Young did not return repeated calls for comment as of Monday.