Greenport’s Section 8 housing program faces cuts

Greenport Village Hall.

Greenport’s Section 8 housing program is stretched to its limit, prompting the village to take a close look at who receives rental subsidy assistance, according to village administrator David Abatelli.

The Section 8 program offers federal rent subsidies for moderate- and low-income residents. Eligibility and amount are based on annual gross income and family size. The housing benefits are opened-ended, allowing individuals and families to stay on Section 8 indefinitely so long as they meet federal standards.

Eighty Greenport families currently receive Section 8 subsidies. By next year, five will be cut from the program, Mr. Abatelli said.

To better understand how the funding is distributed, the village plans to list program participants in three categories: retirees, the disabled and low-income working families. Officials said the analysis is the local response to a nationwide problem.

In March, sweeping federal budget cuts known as the sequester dealt a large financial blow to the Section 8 program, operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Federal law limits the program to U.S. citizens, but some non-citizens with immigration status are eligible, including agriculture workers who have been granted lawful temporary resident status and those with refugee or asylum status.

Sequestration reduced the amount of support for affordable rental housing by roughly 5 percent, according to HUD. The department estimates 125,000 recipients nationwide will totally lose their assistance as a result of the cuts.

Local public housing agencies such as the village have been authorized to take steps to address budget shortfalls, according to HUD. Those steps include holding back new vouchers and tightening eligibility standards.

As a precautionary measure, the village is no longer accepting Section 8 applications, Mr. Abatelli said.

Instead of abandoning people cut from Greenport’s program, the village may consider transferring some recipients to neighboring communities whose Section 8 housing programs are less stressed, he said.

Greenport faces a unique set of challenges regarding Section 8 housing, including high rentals and factoring in payouts to seasonal workers who use the program during the off season.

Mr. Abatelli is to present the report to the Village Board later this summer.

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