Shutdown Stories: Housing and Urban Development

Our Shutdown Stories series, which began as a series of public Facebook posts, is focused on providing factual, evidenced based information about the effects of shutting down particular Federal Government agencies. We are moving it here to our corporate blog, in an effort to increase readability and make it easier to share these complex issues. Please feel free to share on the platform of your choosing, with attribution to The War Room Group. 

Dear Landlords…

(Originally Published on Facebook 1/7/2019)

We are charging into week three of the partial Government shutdown, and as more people are furloughed each day, and more paychecks are missed, the people paying the price of this continue to be civil servants and low-income households. The further we go the clearer it becomes that the full impacts of this shutdown were neither planned for, nor understood. 
Today’s #ShutdownStory: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Created by the US Housing Act of 1937, HUD provides housing, housing fairness services, rental assistance, housing sustainability programs, and research into housing for all Americans. They provide Rental Assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8). The department is currently running with just 5% of it’s normal staff. (in fact, multiple news agencies state that when they reach out for comment – no one is even answering the phone. Your intrepid storyteller tried to give a couple of hotline numbers a call and got the same results).

Multifamily housing has a lot of moving parts; from the rent getting paid to health and safety inspections, to fair housing enforcement. These services serve extremely vulnerable parts of the American population.

As of today, January 7, 2019: Health and Safety inspections have ceased; NBC news quotes a HUD official as saying this alone presents “an imminent threat to the safety of human life and protection of property.” (link in comments) Last week in Hartford, CT the floor of a privately-owned, HUD-funded property collapsed under the crutches of a resident, crashing into the ceiling of the neighbor living below, it was reported that the sub-floor was “covered in black mold”. This is a system that has been plagued with issues for some time. But, that has now taken a turn into the dangerous.

The National Housing Trust, a nonprofit advocate for affordable housing (who also owns HUD-funded rental properties) is quoted: “Previous administrations have had calls with industry stakeholders, saying ‘here’s what’s going to happen’ None of that happened before this shutdown.”

In addition to serious health and safety concerns, the Washington Post is reporting today that HUD officials sent letters to 1,500 landlords Friday as part of a last-minute effort to prevent the eviction of thousands of tenants. Many of them live in housing covered by a HUD program that agency officials “didn’t realize” had expired on January 1, 2019 and that they are now unable to renew. The letter instructs landlords to use their reserve accounts to prevent evictions while HUD “scours for money” to figure out how to keep people in their homes (letter and article in comments).

As we drag on, the instances of “we did not see this coming” are going to be a much more common thing. The people who will suffer are not the people who can brush this off, at this point we are using our dedicated civil servants and our most vulnerable populations as cannon fodder. Nothing new, but we can (and must) do better. We fight this sort of injusitice with education and fact, not with name calling or partisan fighting. Please continue to share, speak up, and let everyone know that this is not ok. I am changing the format of these moving forward to make them a little more readable. But, I am not letting up – no worries there.