Laconia Housing Authority drawing on reserves to make up for cuts to subsidized rent funds

LACONIA — With austerity and sequestration the watchwords in Washington, public housing authorities across the country have been among the first to feel the pinch as federal funding shrinks and the Laconia Housing Authority (LHA) is no exception.
"The short answer is 'yes," Executive Director Dick Weaver said yesterday, "but the more in-depth answer is 'when' will we feel the impact."
Weaver explained that the LHA administered two low-income housing programs in the city under the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — subsidized public housing at Sunrise Towers on Baldwin Street and the housing voucher program known as Section 8. He said that while HUD is underfunding both programs, by drawing on its reserves, the LHA is able to maintain them at current levels, but only through 2014. "Unless something changes," he said, "we will have to cut back."
The residents of the 98 units at Sunrise Towers, which is owned by the LHA, pay 30-percent of their income in rent and HUD provides a subsidy to the LHA to defray the balance of costs to operate the building. Weaver said that HUD is currently funding 72-percent of operating costs.
The LHA also provides 407 vouchers to low-income individuals and families to supplement their rent to private landlords throughout the city. Tenants whose income qualifies them for the program contribute 30-percent of their income to rent and the average value of the vouchers is $535. Weaver said that HUD currently funds 69-percent of the cost of the voucher program.
Finally, Weaver said that HUD also funds a share of the LHA's administrative costs.
"Our programs were already underfunded," Weaver remarked, "and the sequestration added salt to the wound."
Calling the situation "unsustainable," he said that without action by Congress, in 2015 the LHA would be faced with deferring maintenance, reducing the number of vouchers and perhaps reducing staff to make ends meet. "We have managed our reserves well, but at some point without increased funding we will no longer be able to operate at current levels," Weaver said.