SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – To prevent evictions of Section 8 tenants, today, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved the allocation of $1 million from its Reserve Fund set aside in the budget, to cover unknown impacts of state and federal actions. The Section 8 program provides a rental subsidy to over 16,500 households in Santa Clara County.
In March, the U.S. Congress reduced its Federal Fiscal Year 2013 funding for the Section 8 program. This resulted in a $16 million shortfall in the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County’s (HACSC) Section 8 budget, retroactive to January 2013.
Faced with very difficult choices that ranged from withdrawing all housing support from 900 to 1,000 families to reducing rent support to all recipients receiving Section 8 housing subsidies, the Housing Authority raised household rents, in some cases by as much as $500 per month, required some families to move to smaller more affordable two-bedroom units, and approached the County, cities, and other housing related organizations in the region to contribute resources to help prevent evictions.
“The requirement to move or pay a rent increase is putting additional financial stress on families that already have difficulty making ends meet,” said Alex Sanchez, Executive Director, Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara. “Some families are facing eviction because they cannot pay the rent increase.”
HACSC’s Sequester Eviction Prevention Program (SEPP) is a strategy to respond to this crisis. The SEPP program is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to households impacted by the reduction of housing subsidies under the Section 8 program and to help families stabilize their housing by assisting with new rental security deposit requirements.
"Housing is a basic need we all share," said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager. "Residents are facing eviction from their homes because Congress can't make responsible budget decisions. It is up to local government to step in and help where we can."
“At a time when we are making progress in rehousing the homeless, seeing a large number of individuals and families at risk of become homeless, due to the impacts of sequestration would be a huge step in the wrong direction,” said Mike Wasserman, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and Chair of the Board’s Housing, Land Use, Environment, and Transportation Committee.
HACSC’s implementation of the program will be phased in depending on the amount of funding raised and the rate at which the funds are depleted. Phase I will target those involved in an eviction process, and based on availability of funding; Phase 2 will assist households ready to move with security deposits.
The County of Santa Clara is the largest contributor, allocating $1 million. According to HACSC, it is contributing- $500,000, City of San Jose - $250,000, and Finally Home (Sunnyvale and City of Santa Clara funds) -$70,000.
“There has been a great deal of concern about how to respond to federal cuts to Section 8 housing vouchers,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese. “This is the County’s contribution to keeping good people from losing their homes.”
“It is important to realize that this is an emergency program that does not solve the long term affordable housing challenges we face in this County,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith. “However, it is important that this collaborative of agencies have come together to prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless.”
All funding collected for this purpose will be administered by the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County. The Housing Trust has committed to collect data about the users of these funds to understand how funding is spent and for what purposes.
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