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Federal shutdown will not affect D.C. public housing right away, says housing authority

But if the shutdown lasts for a few months, it could harm thousands of low-income residents

The Washington Post/Getty Images

The ongoing partial shutdown of the U.S. government will not immediately disrupt the lives of the thousands of D.C. families living in public housing or receiving rental vouchers to live in apartments on the private market, the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) said on Monday.

In a statement, the authority said it has enough funding, including in its reserves, to operate as normal “for at least 90 days,” or through March 2019. That assurance came on the heels of news reports laying out how the shutdown could disadvantage local housing authorities, such as DCHA, and the people they serve. With no end in sight as of this afternoon, the shutdown has functionally shuttered the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which provides much of the funding as well as technical support for local housing authorities.

Routine inspections of HUD-funded housing have reportedly been put on pause, and some local housing officials say they are unsure how long funding for rental-assistance payments will continue during the shutdown. But DCHA says the money supporting its public housing and rental voucher programs will not dry up imminently. The programs help about 20,000 residents and 10,500 families, respectively, live affordably in the District, per DCHA figures.

“DCHA received HUD’s standard monthly payment on Jan. 2, 2019, ensuring that DCHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) and public housing program remain fully funded through January,” the authority explains. “In addition, HUD’s February funding has been obligated and scheduled for release to DCHA on Feb. 1, 2019.” Should the shutdown endure beyond February, DCHA says it will have to dip into its reserves to keep providing services.

Like other housing authorities across the country, DCHA already faces insufficient funding compared to what local officials and advocates for low-income families say is the true need. As the Washington City Paper recently reported, the authority has told HUD that 2,500 of its 8,000 public housing units, or almost a third, are in “extremely urgent” condition, having problems like mold, poor plumbing, and pests. Other subsidized units have similar problems.