Sequester Cuts Draw Protesters to Capitol Hill
Angela Harvey

Rally demonstrators called on Congress to repeal the sequester and approve a Senate bill that would increase funding to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

About two hundred people gathered at a July 24 rally on Capitol Hill sponsored by the National AIDS
Housing Coalition, Housing Works and Harlem United. Participants said supportive housing programs
are reeling from the sequester budget cuts.

The Center on Budget and Policy reported the automatic reductions in federal spending that took place this spring decreased funding for housing services by more than $2 billion. HUD estimates 100,000 formerly homeless and home- less individuals will be will removed from housing programs or shelters as a result.

“Housing is health care, fund HUD now!”

“Fight, fight, housing is a human right!”the crowd cheered.

Anthony Jones, 42, of Harlem, N.Y., has been living in a shelter since his public housing was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, which battered several states on the East Coast in October of last year.

“Trying to get back into permanent housing has been such a challenge. I’ve noticed this time around that some services and staffs are being cut,” Jones said. He recently began working with Harlem United, an AIDS service organization that provides housing and support services, to find a housing solution.

“In New York, the cuts have already taken away more than 3,000 Section 8 vouchers. The New York City Housing Authority is also slated to lose nearly 7,000 housing vouchers,” said speaker Tim Houghton, the executive director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. “That’s 10,000 people who are not going to be able to get housing because of the sequester.”

A Section 8 voucher is a housing subsidy that is paid directly to a landlord on behalf of the program participant.

Meanwhile, Congress still needs to reach an agreement on HUD’s budget for the next fiscal year. The
House and the Senate have proposed their own versions of the Transportation-HUD appropriations
bills. Federal funding for HUD, including transportation and community development, is $51.7 billion for this year. The Senate bill would increase funding by $2.3 billion, or 4.5 percent. The House bill would decrease funding by $7.7 billion, or 15 percent.

Demonstrators voiced their support of the Senate bill, saying many housing pro- grams will not survive another round of budget cuts. They are lobbying Congress to reach an agreement that does not reduce HUD funding.

While the crowd gathered outside, 60 representatives from Supportive Housing Network of New York
walked the halls in- side the Capitol attempting to speak with the 29 members of Congress from New
York, said Houghton.

“You are not alone out here. There are others working with you,” he said to the crowd. “We must
work diligently to bring attention to these issues.”