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Cuts in housing assistance hurting poorest Minnesotans

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Some of Minnesota's poorest people are being hurt by the cuts in federal subsidies for public housing.

MPR News reports that Minnesota housing advocates say federal programs for public housing and pay assistance have been cut by $1.7 billion in the last three years.

The Minnesota Housing Partnership said with inflation the cuts translate into an 8 percent reduction in the largest federal rent subsidy program and a 25 percent drop in federal public housing support.

About 50,000 Minnesota households live on public housing or benefit from rent subsidies. The average income of those households is less than $15,000. The goal of the program is to have those households pay about a third of their income for rent.

The report, conducted by the housing partnership and the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, investigates the impacts of budget cuts and public housing.

The report says despite signs of economic recovery, real renter incomes have fallen by 14 percent while rents have risen by 8 percent since 2000. The study indicates that working families have been hit hard as rental vacancy rates have plummeted. The number of homeless people has increased 32 percent statewide since 2006.

Randal Hemmerlin, the executive director of the Red Wing Housing and Redevelopment Authority told MPR "We're looking at significant reductions in the number of people we're going to be able to assist due to less funding we're receiving in the rental assistance program. In the long run, with the public housing projects, we are going to be able to maintain them less and less as years go by."

The study says Minnesota will lose between 2,500 and 3,200 vouchers by the end of 2014, as program reserves are used up and agencies run out of options.

Housing advocates are trying to get the cuts in federal aid restored and an increase in state housing assistance.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says unless Congress cancels sequestration as part of an agreement to fund the government beyond January 2014, agencies will continue to face shortfalls, and the resulting hardships for low-income families will worsen considerably in the year ahead.

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