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Sec 8 - limit time in program?

Please limit discussion in this area to local and state politics.

Should there be a 7-10 year time limit for a household to stay on Section 8?

No, a household's need doesn't expire, neither should its voucher
15
65%
Yes, need to spread the vouchers and avoid dependency
8
35%
 
Total votes : 23

Sec 8 - limit time in program?

Postby Stu Levitan » Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:49 am

Currently, a Section 8 recipient can retain that status indefinitely. Given (a) that we have more households in need of a voucher than we can serve, and (b) there are concerns about households institutionalizing dependency, a suggestion has been made to limit the number of years (say, to 7-10) a household can stay on Section 8.

What do you think?
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Postby Suoiragerg » Fri Sep 22, 2006 8:59 am

This could work as long as you are helping folks along the way gain the skills and ability to no longer need the voucher. Of course there may always be some that due to disability may not be able to gain income in the free market system.

Sounds like something that should be discussed with in a larger Affordable Housing Demand Reducation Plan doesn't it Stu?
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Postby Brenda Konkel » Fri Sep 22, 2006 9:01 pm

Would you allow an exception for the disabled and elderly?
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Postby Donald » Fri Sep 22, 2006 9:33 pm

It sounds like something that could work, as long as there are some reasonable exceptions. There would have to be a concerted effort to assist people to get training that would qualify them for better paying jobs. Are there statistics available on how long people are on Section 8, or how many people get off, then get back on a year or two later?
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Postby Stu Levitan » Sun Sep 24, 2006 12:07 am

Brenda Konkel wrote:Would you allow an exception for the disabled and elderly?


Yes. Elderly account for about 15% of Sec 8 households; the data I have in hand doesn't break out by handicapped [obviously, much higher percentage of handicapped in Low-Rent Public Housing than on Section 8]. I would exempt both categories from time limit. With that clarification, Brenda, would you support this?

BTW - I'd love to know what AHAA thinks about this idea, but .... well, you know...
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Postby VickySelkowe » Sun Sep 24, 2006 10:58 am

Stu -
Just curious - are you in favor of the 5 year lifetime limit on receipt of welfare assistance? As I'm sure you know, that's worked out to be just a swell policy for our most indigent families with kids. Once that time limit is up, they've got no access to a safety net at all (even acknowledging that $673/month - at most - during those 5 years ain't much of a safety net to begin with).

And let me know if you'd like to talk about how well the "exemptions" have worked out in the welfare realm (to give certain people more time on the program if needed) before you implement them in the Section 8 realm.

Vicky
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Postby Stu Levitan » Mon Sep 25, 2006 7:39 am

Vicky
I'm really not qualified to comment on welfare policy (oh, how I admire those who have expertise in so many subjects!). And I'm not really sure how analagous the two issues are, anyway.

The basic question is this -- would you rather help three families for seven years each or one family for 21 years? Because, sadly, our limited resources require us to make choices. Do you think letting one household stay on Sec 8 indefinitely is more progressive than setting a time limit so others can benefit as well? Why?
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Postby burstingsun » Mon Sep 25, 2006 8:18 am

You pose an interesting question, Stuart. Ideally, we need more funding for the Section 8 program. Given the current political situation, though, this isn't likely anytime too soon.

So, we find ourselves wrestling with the question of whether we help more people less or less people more. I'd be curious to know how many Section 8 vouchers actually turn over each year and the average length of time an individual (or family) holds a Section 8 voucher in Madison (broken down by family, elderly, and disabled).

This question is similar to one faced by CDA in the past regarding maximum assistance limits. I'm not sure what has been done with these in the last year or two, but in the past I know that CDA has considered whether or not to lower the maximum assistance limit (from 5% over FMR, if I recall correctly down to FMR as determined by HUD) and at that time continued with the higher limit.

In theory, time limits on Section 8 make sense if people on the program have opportunities for economic advancement. However, I don't think that we have ample opportunities for low-income individuals to move into the jobs necessary to afford Madison's high rents.

If we, as a city, do a good job of providing economic advancement opportunities (job training, education programs, jobs paying family supporting wages, access to quality child care, reasonable cost transportation, etc.) for low-income individuals, time limits on programs such as Section 8 should not be necessary. Instead, those time limits would come naturally as incomes move beyond the program's maximum limits.

I'd rather we focus our efforts on giving low-income people the opportunity and support needed to get ahead than placing an arbitrary time limit on pretty much the only remaining safety-net financial assistance program not yet totally stripped away by our largely Republican government.

That being said, I do understand the temptation to go with time-limits for Section 8. Waiting list are frustrating, to say the least. Homeless families have nearly not shot at getting a Section 8 voucher until it's way too late to dig themselves out of a complete mess of debt and credit problems, etc. However, sending families back into the downward spiral after an arbitrary time limit has passed doesn't seem like the right solution, either.

Determining an appropriate time limit (even considering an exemption for elderly people and people with disabilities), also seems a nearly impossible task. It may be reasonable to expect that given some support, a two-parent working family with high school diplomas and minimal barriers (such as mental health issues, other health problems, learning disabilities, domestic violence history, poor work history, etc.) may enter a job training program or 2 or 4 year college and attain adequate income to leave Section 8 (and not return shortly thereafter) within 2 to 5 years. On the other hand, an 18 year old single parent with a 7th grade education who struggles to read and write may take several years just to attain a GED. Some meaningful job training may add even longer. Add time to diagnose and treat her currently untreated depression. She likely has no work history, so it will take time to move from an entry level positioin (likely not even attainable until she completes her GED) to a family-supporting job... and so on. If this family is cut off by an arbitrary time limit to the program, they will likely return to the homeless shelter and a downward spiral of debt, frustration, etc.

Instead, could we find a way to offer more support and opportunity to those on the Section 8 program. People need financial assistance such as Section 8 while working their way up the ladder, but they also often need a boost to get a leg up to the next rung.
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Postby VickySelkowe » Mon Sep 25, 2006 8:24 am

Stu Levitan wrote:Vicky
I'm really not qualified to comment on welfare policy (oh, how I admire those who have expertise in so many subjects!). And I'm not really sure how analagous the two issues are, anyway. The basic question is this -- would you rather help three families for seven years each or one family for 21 years? Because, sadly, our limited resources require us to make choices. Do you think letting one household stay on Sec 8 indefinitely is more progressive than setting a time limit so others can benefit as well? Why?


Seems to me they're pretty analagous. The debate about time limits in the welfare context centered around exactly the same limited resources argument you're raising with Section 8 and about setting up "incentives" so that people wouldn't hang out on welfare for years (because $673/month to support your kids and being treated like crap by a large bureaucracy are apparently not big enough incentives...), while others waited to gain access to cash benefits. And those who fought for welfare time limits argued that they would put in place all kinds of ways to help welfare recipients access basic ed, literacy, job training, skill development, etc. so that when they did hit the time limit, they'd be ok.

That didn't work out so well. Talk to any W-2 recipient about what skills, basic ed or job training they got or how much help they got dealing with their barriers to work while on the program. Do you think CDA could do better?

If you're so worried about limited resources and people staying on S8 too long, seems like your energy would be better spent by a) fighting like hell to get the state & the feds to put more money into programs like this and b) ensuring that S8 recipients get every opportunity while on the program to raise their skill levels, deal with barriers to work, etc. so that they would raise their income levels to a point where they wouldn't even qualify for the program anymore and would actually be able to pay for housing without assistance.

Tell me: Do CDA staff currently have the resources or training to help S8 recipients access job training, skill development, basic ed/literacy or higher ed? Do they help S8 recipients get expedited DVR services? Do they help S8 recipients get help for domestic violence, AODA, mental health or physical health problems? How would your staff feel if you told 'em they had to do all that on top of their regular duties?

And I'd be curious to know how many Madison families have been receiving Section 8 for "21 years"...I'm as prone to hyperbole as the next gal, Stu, but c'mon...
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Postby Stu Levitan » Mon Sep 25, 2006 10:25 am

OK, I'm busted -- turns out the longest tenure we can document so far (for non-elderly) is 17 years. So, Vicky, do you think that's ok -- for non-elderly, non-handicapped household to retain voucher for 17 years? If so, why is that inherently more progressive than serving two families for seven and ten years respectively?
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Postby burstingsun » Mon Sep 25, 2006 10:57 am

Stu Levitan wrote:OK, I'm busted -- turns out the longest tenure we can document so far (for non-elderly) is 17 years. So, Vicky, do you think that's ok -- for non-elderly, non-handicapped household to retain voucher for 17 years? If so, why is that inherently more progressive than serving two families for seven and ten years respectively?

I'm assuming you don't have much information as to the circumstances faced by the 17 year family. It's impossible to answer your question about whether it is ok without knowing more. For example, did the family have a child with a disability that made the parent unable to work? What was the education level of the adult(s) at the time of program entry? Were there underlying health issues that may not have technically qualified as "handicapped"? And so forth...

There will always be some people who abuse a system. However, it does not seem right to change the entire system based on a few cases of abuse.

Regarding what is more progressive, I don't think that's the issue here. There is a philisophical question of whether it makes sense to help more people less or less people more. This questions doesn't run on a progressive/non-progressive basis for its answer.

If we helped those that we do help better (not more or less time-wise but with a higher quality of service beyond simple financial assistance), we could help more people. As I said before, the program could naturally time-limit itself if it did a better job of assisting people to move up the financial ladder.
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Postby Greg Markle » Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:04 am

burstingsun wrote:I'd be curious to know how many Section 8 vouchers actually turn over each year and the average length of time an individual (or family) holds a Section 8 voucher in Madison (broken down by family, elderly, and disabled).



I asked this question once at a City Council meeting and got the response that such information is not tracked for either Section 8 or other low-income housing programs.
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Postby Greg Markle » Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:12 am

VickySelkowe wrote:
Stu Levitan wrote:Vicky

Tell me: Do CDA staff currently have the resources or training to help S8 recipients access job training, skill development, basic ed/literacy or higher ed? Do they help S8 recipients get expedited DVR services? Do they help S8 recipients get help for domestic violence, AODA, mental health or physical health problems? How would your staff feel if you told 'em they had to do all that on top of their regular duties?



Great questions but I doubt you will ever get an answer.


I just wish that someone would have proposed that the city come up with an affordable housing demand reduction plan to look at all these issues.

Oh wait, some one did! Subsequently the staff and mayor seem to have chosen to absolutely ignore that the creating of such a plan was passed unanimously as a resolution of the City Council. The plan is now over 1.5 years over due.
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Postby Stu Levitan » Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:27 am

Greg Markle wrote:
VickySelkowe wrote:
Stu Levitan wrote:Vicky

Tell me: Do CDA staff currently have the resources or training to help S8 recipients access job training, skill development, basic ed/literacy or higher ed? Do they help S8 recipients get expedited DVR services? Do they help S8 recipients get help for domestic violence, AODA, mental health or physical health problems? How would your staff feel if you told 'em they had to do all that on top of their regular duties?



Great questions but I doubt you will ever get an answer.



The answer is that the CDA has neither the staff nor expertise to provide such services to Sec 8 recipients. We do provide some services to public housing tenants, under various contracts.

In answer to a prior question, latest data shows that approximately 52% of Sec 8 households are classified as disabled, meaning at least one person has physical disability or mental illness. Sort of puts that whole mandatory thing in an interesting light, eh?
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Postby Greg Markle » Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:37 am

Stu Levitan wrote:
Greg Markle wrote:
VickySelkowe wrote:
Stu Levitan wrote:Vicky

Tell me: Do CDA staff currently have the resources or training to help S8 recipients access job training, skill development, basic ed/literacy or higher ed? Do they help S8 recipients get expedited DVR services? Do they help S8 recipients get help for domestic violence, AODA, mental health or physical health problems? How would your staff feel if you told 'em they had to do all that on top of their regular duties?



Great questions but I doubt you will ever get an answer.



The answer is that the CDA has neither the staff nor expertise to provide such services to Sec 8 recipients. We do provide some services to public housing tenants, under various contracts.

In answer to a prior question, latest data shows that approximately 52% of Sec 8 households are classified as disabled, meaning at least one person has physical disability or mental illness. Sort of puts that whole mandatory thing in an interesting light, eh?


Is that local data or from a national survey?
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