Emergency funding to save low-income tenants - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Emergency funding to save low-income tenants

Barbara Zimmerman (left) Barbara Zimmerman (left)

MADISON (WKOW) -- It has been a month of uncertainty for 1,148 renters in Madison, who were bracing for a hefty, and perhaps unpayable rent increase.

"It's like it doubled, so I though it was a mistake," Barbara Zimmerman told 27 News on July 9, about a week after she received a letter from the city's housing authority, explaining money for the Section 8 program was down, so her portion of rent would go up $143 a month. She only had $200 to spare.

Then that shock turned into relief.  U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) and city officials announced Friday morning an infusion of $600,000 into the program, designed to give housing vouchers for portions of rent to poor, disabled, and elderly residents.

The money will fill the hole created in the city's Section 8 program after a funding formula suddenly changed.

"In many cases, we understand these increases in rent would have challenged their ability to remain in their apartments, and so this is incredible news," said Baldwin.

"I couldn't believe it," said Zimmerman on Friday. "Happy camper."

She said after "groceries, clothes, travel, whatever else comes up, medications," she has very little if any money left if the rent increase were to be permanent.

Although for her, and others in her shoes, the emergency money came too late for August. The rent did increase at the first of this month, but it will reset back to normal the next month.

"Our intention right now is to move forward on September 1, and take a look at August later," said Tom Conrad, the manager of Madison's Section 8 program. He said after expenses become firmed up later in the year, the issue of how to repay renters for their August payments will become clearer then.

Regardless, Friday's news was welcomed by Zimmerman, as she and others were faced with moving to somewhere less expensive and less secure.

"I didn't want to move into housing where I had neighbors shooting each other, things like that," she said.

The infusion of $600,000 will come from an administrative fund that was set up at the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, according to Baldwin.

Around the country, she said about 17-percent of housing authorities faced the same, sudden shortfalls.

Baldwin said communication and planning between HUD and cities needs to be improved, so the same thing doesn't happen again. Reasons for the sudden gap of $578,000 in Madison's $10.2 million program included putting a budget together later than normal, and a funding forumla change on the federal level that switched from a fiscal year to a calendar year.

Baldwin said the struggling economy, however, will continue making it a challenge to estimate revenue and expenses for the program, because more tenants than usual are keeping their vouchers through the recession.

Email Carl Agnelly at cagnelly@wkowtv.com

Follow Carl Agnelly on Twitter.


MADISON (WKOW) -- More than 1,100 renters in the city of Madison who used a government subsidized Section 8 voucher program can take a sigh of relief.

Friday, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and other city officials announced an emergency infusion of $600,000 from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fill a shortfall in the $10.2 million program.

In late June, 1,148 of the 1,500 participating renters received letters from Madison's Housing Authority that a change in the funding formula would result in a reduction in their voucher amounts, meaning they would have to pay a higher portion of rent. Those changes took effect August 1.

After today's announcement, rent values will revert to earlier levels beginning September 1.

Carl Agnelly is speaking with one recipient who couldn't be more thankful to hear today's news, tonight on 27 News at 5:00 and 6:00.

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