Dozens of Fairfax County's poorest residents have just been hit with very bad news: The sequestration threat has forced the county to freeze its program that provides housing vouchers to low-income residents who need help paying rent.
Right now, around 3,500 Fairfax County families get housing assistance through the federally funded program, but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the county the budget sequester could mean a cut of $2.5 million from the housing choice voucher program. In response Fairfax County officials halted the issuance of new vouchers as of April 1, meaning 42 families who were in the process of getting housing were abruptly cut off. Fairfax County housing officials estimate another 150 families who would have received new vouchers this year, will not get help in 2013.
Annandale resident Tauheedah Dillard nearly found herself without a home a few days ago when her county housing counselor informed her she had fewer than 24 hours to finish her new voucher paperwork or she'd lose her rent assistance.
"Panic set in because I have five children," Dillard said.
But Facets, a non-profit housing assistance organization, went to the rescue and won her a brief extension. In that time she completed the paperwork.
"It's scary," said Dillard. "I'm not the only family out there going through this. A lot of families aren't going to be as lucky."
Facets Facets Executive Director Amanda Andere shares Dillard's fear. Housing advocates recently cheered the fact that a recent count showed Fairfax County's homeless numbers were down 12 percent.
Now Andere worries that gain could quickly be reversed by the halt to new housing vouchers.
"Some people might have to find different situations in terms of housing, staying with friends or relatives longer or move around a lot and that's not what we want for kids and families," she said. "We definitely don't want people sleeping out in the woods."
Andere said her organization and others that help with housing will focus on raising more funds to try to get families into apartments while the county waits for a breakthrough in the federal budget.