BOSTON Thousands of the poorest residents of Massachusetts are losing housing assistance because of automatic federal budget cuts that took effect in March.
The Boston Globe reports that many of the poor are forced to choose between food, rent, medicine or living on the streets.
The cuts affect Section 8 vouchers that help poor individuals and families rent apartments as a result of continuing spending cuts known as the sequester.
“Everybody says they hate sequester,” said Lee Farris, an advocate for reduced military spending and a 1 percent tax increase on the rich and corporations. “So Congress needs to find another way between now and when they pass the budget to replace it with what they should have done in the first place.”
The Boston Housing Authority, for example, has stopped issuing new vouchers due to cuts of $10 million. The agency could end subsidies for more than 10 percent of the 11,000 households who receive vouchers.
Lydia Agro, a spokeswoman for the housing authority, says it’s never before had to cut people off the program.
Families with vouchers pay as much as 40 percent of their income toward rent.
The program, begun in the 1970s, offers subsidies to individuals and families who earn no more than 50 percent of the median income in the area they live, though most earn 30 percent or less of the median income. In Boston, a family of four with an income of $28,000 a year or less would qualify.
The state Department of Housing and Community Development, which allocates about 20,000 Section 8 vouchers each year, has a waiting list of about 80,000 low-income households, including about 24,000 people with disabilities.
Federal spending cuts of more than $12 million mean those individuals and families will stay on the waiting list indefinitely.