Special Audit to be Conducted on Section 8 Policies
Section 8 might be one of the most popular assistance programs offered in America, but it's also one of the most prone to fraud and failure. The program has been around for a century now, and it's operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Officially, a couple million Americans use Section 8, while many more millions are on waiting lists. Unofficially, Section 8 is rumored to be entirely corrupt and incompetent, depending on which state it's operating in. The federal government funds HUD, and HUD passes Section 8 duties on to individual states. In Pennsylvania, for instance, there's currently a pretty big controversy happening right now in Johnstown. Two officials have asked HUD to gather information on Section 8 housing vouchers, so the program can be inspected and potentially audited.
Earlier this week, Frank Burns, an East Taylor state representative, sent out a letter to HUD and asked their Inspector General to perform an audit on the Johnstown Housing Authority's policies related to Section 8. Typically when such requests are sent in, it's because politicians feel as if Section 8 isn't widely available enough for residents. There ends up being a long waiting list, and officials want to ensure that HUD is doing everything they can to offer more housing. In the case of Johnstown, officials are starting to worry that perhaps too many people (or at least the wrong types of people) are taking advantage of Section 8 and do not actually meet the requirements.
The ironic thing here is that it's not really HUD's business who ends up with Section 8 housing in the state of Pennsylvania. That's for the state to decide; HUD just funds the program based on its federal budget. Though HUD does centralize all the records, and so they would be the organization to ask as it relates to information. Burns said to the public that "HUD supplies the funding and writes the rules," and added that he just wants to verify that the rules are being followed.
Housing activists and proponents of Section 8 are already quite upset about this, accusing Burns of racism and discrimination. According to Burns, however, this is simply about ensuring that the right people are getting help, and not people trying to game the system. For many years, people with jobs and other places to live have been running Section 8 scams. A lot of people over the years have had HUD pay their rent, while they sublet their apartment to someone else for cash. These sorts of instances don't come close to making up the majority, of course, but they're still stains on the program; and for every one person gaming the system, that's one entire family left out of an apartment or house. Most feel Burns is perfectly justified in requesting an audit.
A Tough Nut to Crack
It really is nearly impossible to eliminate fraud from welfare. There are just so many millions of people looking to game the system that they could never all be stopped. The best a program like Section 8 can possibly do is implement a tougher screening process to limit the chances of someone committing fraud. Oddly enough, this is what politicians like Burns should have been doing to begin with. He claims in his statement that "HUD writes the rules," but that's a bit of a misnomer. They write guidelines and then pass the program off to the state. The state then has the ultimate say of who gets into a house and who doesn't. So if anyone is scamming Section 8 in Johnstown, that's the result of Pennsylvania allowing it to happen, not HUD; so it's a bit disingenuous to kick that ball over in their court. It's fair to ask them for an audit, but not to blame them for fraud.
Pennsylvania, and every other American state offering Section 8, has an obligation to ensure that only qualified candidates are receiving Section 8 housing vouchers. If they're lax in their duties, they shouldn't then get to go on a crusade against the government. It's like a mechanic holding a tire manufacturer responsible for the fact that the mechanic put the tires on wrong.
There is undoubtedly some level of fraud happening with Section 8 in Pennsylvania, like with every other state. Though it's the job of representatives like Burns to prevent it in the first place, not to go looking for HUD to handle it after it slipped right past them to begin with.