Shutdown impacts local housing situation

Shutdown impacts local housing situation
January 31
02:00 2019

By Chanel R. Davis

One of the longest government shutdowns in recent history has had many citizens on edge, with hundreds of thousands not being paid in weeks. With the recent but temporary opening of the government on Friday, many local agencies are still figuring out how best to deal with shutdown and best serve their clients.

The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem is one of those agencies. The organization provides affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents to live in a safe and decent housing in Winston-Salem, but the majority of the agency’s funds are federally based. A fact that Larry Woods, chief executive officer of HAWS, considered when talks of the shutdown first began before the holidays. They’ve been in contact with the National Organization of Housing and Redevelopment, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities and other housing authorities to look at some alternatives.

“We kind of jumped the gun. We’ve been looking at options that we could probably put into effect, but so far it has been on a day-by-day basis. We haven’t felt the impact yet,” Woods said. “We’re still able to house people in both our public housing and our Section 8 Program.”

Woods said with the government being shut down earlier this year and with a new February 18 deadline looming, the ultimate question is will the agency continue to be able to make payments on a monthly basis. So far, the agency hasn’t run into any problems, but plenty of questions.

“We haven’t gotten a lot of feedback from clients, but we have received some calls from landlords asking about future payments. We’ve told them that we will continue to make payments until we feel we are at a critical point, but we will let them know 25 to 30 days prior if we can’t make a payment. So far we’ve been able to live up to those commitments.”

According to Woods, it’s understandable for property owners and landlords to be worried about how the current state of the government impacts housing.

“Many of our Section 8 landlords may own 20 to 30 individual homes or small apartment complexes and our rental assistance really helps them keep up the property and repairs, but also serves as income,” Woods said. “So, if there is going to be a disruption, we believe that we have an obligation to notify both them and the tenant to see if we can’t work out an arrangement until this whole situation has been resolved.”

Woods says that he keeps in contact with congressional representatives in hopes that they can keep him abreast of any knowledge of change, waivers or relief.

“No one thinks about how many veterans, people with disabilities and senior citizens live in public and subsidized housing. Think about how this impacts them. This is something that we are trying to manage, but we are going to need our congressional leaders’ help.”

Despite the current state of the government, HAWS is asking that clients continue to make payments to their landlords.

“They should not withhold any payments whatsoever. That would be a breach of their leasing contract and the landlord would have a reason to terminate and that’s what we are trying to avoid,” said Woods. “Here in Winston-Salem, I think we were better prepared than a lot of housing authorities, but no one thought it would last this long. We’re on edge every day with this.”

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