Catholic Charities mobilizes to save low-income housing program

.- Catholic Charities agencies across the United States are mobilizing to defeat the Bush Administration's proposal that would restructure and gut funding for a successful housing program, which serves more than two million low-income families, seniors, and disabled people each year.

Catholic Charities has pointed out that these low-income households could lose their homes if Congress adopts proposed changes to the federal Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher Program.

For 30 years, the Section 8 voucher program has enabled low- income families to afford modest apartments on the private market. For seniors and disabled persons on very low fixed incomes, Section 8 allows them to live with dignity in decent housing. Because of the Section 8 program, local property owners can continue to maintain their buildings, and neighborhoods can maintain stability.

In February, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed major changes to Section 8, including a $1-billion cut in funding for 2005. The proposal also would restructure the program as a block grant, which would mean that assistance would no longer keep pace with rising housing costs. If the proposals are accepted by Congress, as many as 250,000 families could lose their voucher assistance in the first year alone.

"Not so long ago, the Bush administration called on local officials, charities, and faith-based organizations to band together to end homelessness in their communities,” said Douglas Rice, director of housing and community development for Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA).

“This is a bold and noble goal, yet it is a goal that can be met only by strengthening, not weakening, successful affordable housing programs like Section 8," he said.

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