Public housing tenants owing rent will feel federal cuts 1st

Mayor: Tucson might be forced to evict 1,800 within 60 days
2013-03-02T00:00:00Z Public housing tenants owing rent will feel federal cuts 1stDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Public housing residents who owe back rent will be the first evicted if the city is forced to scale back its rental subsidy program because of federal sequestration cuts, city officials said Friday.

Next will be those who have the lowest incomes or require larger - and more expensive - homes, because they cost the program the most money.

Public housing tenants contribute 40 percent of their income toward the rent. The city uses federal funds to make up the difference. The lower someone's income, the larger the subsidy. The subsidy also may be larger for those with larger families, who qualify for more space.

The eviction plan is based on the theory that if you cut the most expensive subsidies, you won't have to cut as many families, said Sally Stang deputy director housing and development for the city.

Sequestration cuts will affect everyone at some point, but the most vulnerable will feel the pinch sooner, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva said at a news conference on Friday, using the looming public housing crisis as an example.

Davis-Monthan Air Base, Raytheon and the University of Arizona will all eventually experience cuts, but some of the city's approximately 5,200 families who receive rent subsidies will experience them almost immediately, Rothschild said.

He said between 250 and 400 families - up to 1,800 people - could lose their homes within 60 days.

Rothschild stressed the families in the program are hard-working people who are trying to get their lives on track by participating in job training programs, literacy classes and more.

"To stay in the program, all of these families do things to get themselves economically independent," he said. "These are people who are working hard to better themselves."

He said to kick them out of public housing at this time could devastate them.

Even though the city has done everything it can to "soften the blow," Rothschild said there's not much more the city can offer those families.

"I wish I could tell you there is another safety net," he said. "But this has been the safety net."

That's why it's imperative that Congress end its brinkmanship and find a solution to the budget stalemate.

"Our most vulnerable citizens should not pay for Congress' inaction," Rothschild said.

Grijalva said the House of Representatives must have a budget by March 27.

"At that point, I think it's going to converge, this issue that we're talking about, sequestration, and the need for a budget," Grijalva said.

He said everyone agrees the country needs to balance its checkbook better, but there's no reason to jeopardize the country's economic health with severe cuts.

"It's about fairness," he said. "We're not denying the deficit. We're not denying we need to balance. We're saying of all the times to pull the mantra of cutting government to the bone, you pick a time that our economy is at its worst state and at a time where you are going to drive this economy deeper into the hole."

Instead, Grijalva proposed replacing the sequestration cuts with additional revenue.

He suggested ending certain deductions, stopping various fossil fuel subsidies and closing some tax loopholes to collect hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue and eliminate the need for steep cuts.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com On Twitter, @DarrenDaRonco.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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