THE SHIFT OF preferences for federal housing subsidies in Westminster is a positive message that the job-ready and working poor will receive priority over the hard-core unemployed. The changes to favor the employed and employable for Section 8 housing reflect welfare reforms being implemented at both federal and state levels.
The reality is that people on the list for subsidized housing in Westminster and in Carroll County face a wait of two years or longer. The immediate impact of preference changes will be to merely shift the places on this long waiting list. Long-term, welfare officials believe the change will result in a faster turnover that will provide help for more people.
The disabled and elderly will be exempted. Other applicants will need a job or job training, a preference that authorities hope will change the thinking of those who look to welfare assistance. "You have to get a job, not just assistance," said Karen K. Blandford, Westminster's housing chief.
Former standards for housing subsidies (paid by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the city to manage) worked to the disadvantage of the working poor and those trying to find work, by emphasizing other preferences. This despite new policies on welfare payments that link benefits with the recipient's efforts to secure employment.
Most of the 270 people on Westminster's current list will qualify under the new standards. Many of those who don't have begun job training programs or have applied, and so would qualify, authorities say. The policy is expected to motivate more of the chronically jobless on welfare to seek work.
Legitimate concerns have been raised about the fates of the homeless and others served by emergency shelters, as well as small children whose parent is not employed or seeking a job. LTC Because new county and state welfare rules require job-search programs for those with children over 1 year of age, the change in low-income housing preferences is not inconsistent.
Demand for short-term shelters has been rising before these recent changes; that is another need to be addressed. Federally subsidized housing is also in short supply. The preference for those who struggle to improve their lot through work is one that should be encouraged.
Pub Date: 10/04/96