Federal 'Sequester' Squeezes $7 Million From Houston Rent Subsidies

The sequestration that went into effect on March 1 hit federal housing programs with cuts of approximately 5 percent.

For the Houston Housing Authority, that meant tough decisions in a region with rising rents and high demand for housing.

Tory Gunsolley is President and CEO of the Houston Housing Authority.

“I think it is really tragic. The basic choice is either we serve less people, and kick people off of the program, or we reduce the subsidies that they receive and the landlord receives.”

Rather than kick people off, as some Housing Authorities in other cities have done, Houston decided to cut the amount of the voucher for 3,000 households.

Those families will have to dig into their pockets and pay more of their overall rent, or move to a cheaper apartment. For another 6,500 households, family members may be forced to double up in bedrooms.

Tamara Caston is one of them. She’s a single mom living in Stafford, and a bus driver for Fort Bend ISD.

“A sixteen-year-old boy having to share a room with his mother? Or either me in the living room or him in the living room, uh.. I mean I’m doing the best I can, you know.”

If she wants to keep her two-bedroom, Caston will have to pay more of the rent. Right now Caston is trying to start her own catering business, and her son is one year away from college, and college tuition.

“I’m really in shock because I’m trying to figure out “How is that going to work out?”

The voucher program serves 17,000 families in and around Houston.

Gunsolley says demand is at a record high.

“In Houston, the need is so great. I mean, we had 80,000 households apply in one week last summer for a spot on the waiting list for the voucher program.”

Gunsolley says if the sequestration doesn’t end, there could be more cuts to housing programs next year.

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