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Cuts to public housing, pay assistance hurt state's poorest people

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Some of the state's poorest people are being hurt by cuts in federal subsidies for public housing and pay assistance, Minnesota housing officials say.

Nationally, those programs have been cut by about $1.7 billion in the past three years. Inflation adjusted, the cuts translate into about an 8 percent reduction in the largest federal rent subsidy program and a 25 percent drop in federal public housing support, the  Minnesota Housing Partnership and other groups said Wednesday.

Public housing advocates are trying to get federal aid restored and increase state housing aid. About 50,000 Minnesota households live in public housing or benefit from rent subsidies. Their average income is about $15,000. The goal is to have them pay about a third of their income for rent. 

"We're looking at significant reductions in the number of people we're going to be able to assist due to less funding we're receiving in the rental assistance program," said Randal Hemmerlin, executive director of the Red Wing Housing and Redevelopment Authority. "In the long run, with the public housing projects, we are going to be able to maintain them less and less as years go by."

Rent subsidy waiting lists that have exceeded five to ten years are getting even longer, added Leigh Rosenberg, research director for the Minnesota Housing Partnership.