When Kathy — who did not want to use her real name for fear of reprisal — saw the notice on her apartment door, she immediately knew something was wrong.
The property management company running the apartment building where she lives is demanding she pay the full rent in March if her landlord does not receive a payment from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“I’d have to go to a shelter. I can’t afford to pay the full rent,” said the woman, who is 72. “It’s hard to believe nobody can do anything about this shutdown.”
Under HUD’s Section 8 program, the federal government subsidizes rents for very low-income tenants, allowing them to pay 30 percent of their income.
But payments to the landlords of 1,400 Pasadena tenants on Section 8 will end in March due to the ongoing government shutdown.
About two-thirds of Pasadena’s Section 8 tenants are seniors, many of them disabled, according to city Housing Director Bill Huang.
HUD also provides the city with about $1 million a month for its housing assistance programs.
“If the shutdown stretches beyond February and landlords do not receive their payments, the landlords will have to make some very difficult decisions,” Huang told the Pasadena Weekly.
There are 1,156 Project-Based Section 8 subsidized apartments in Pasadena, according to affordablehousingonline.com, a website that provides information about housing assistance.
According to Huang, the landlords of those units will have three options once they stop receiving payments. They could wait for the payments to resume, evict the tenant, or end their participation in the program and raise rents to market value.
“The landlords are not going to bear the cost,” said tenants’ rights attorney Philip Koebel. “This is an earthquake. We are talking about 1,400 families that could potentially be displaced. The city needs to step in here and negotiate a way to cover the gap.”
Huang has reached out to US Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) and US Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris for assistance, according to City Manager Steve Mermell’s newsletter.
An increase in rent would be a de facto eviction for most HUD tenants, according to Huang, who said most landlords use rental properties to pay the mortgage on their own homes so they may not be able to wait until the shutdown ends to receive the HUD payments.
“From the landlord’s perspective, they are not getting two-thirds of their rent,” Huang said.
HUD programs support more than three million households across the country. Making matters worse, it is almost impossible for Section 8 tenants to get any information from HUD.
“Due to the lapse in Congressional Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2019, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is closed. HUD websites will not be updated until further notice,” the department’s website reads.
“This is categorically the worst thing that could happen to Pasadena housing,” Koebel said. “Fourteen-hundred families could be categorically displaced.”
But it’s not just Pasadena. Tenants around the country have started reporting notices of rent increases.
According to the Huffington Post, Section 8 tenants in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi received notices that they will be responsible for the full rent as early as February. All told, notices went out to 758 units in 28 buildings in thoe four states.
Jereon Brown, a spokesman for HUD, told NBC News that the agency has never experienced evictions as the result of a government shutdown.
According to Brown, HUD has historically reimbursed owners following a shutdown and never experienced evictions.
But this shutdown has gone on longer than any other and shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials told NBC in a statement that many landlords who were forced to dip in to private funds will only have enough cash on hand to last through one month of delayed payments from HUD.
“If this goes into Feb. 1, landlords will start to go berserk,” CEO Adrianne Todman told NBC. “They, too, have bills to pay.”
The shutdown began on December 21 after President Donald Trump reneged on an earlier guarantee that he would sign a budget approved by Democrats and Republicans and began demanding the bill include $5.7 billion to build a border wall on the country’s southern border with Mexico.
Democrats have announced they will not fund the wall or make any deals until Trump reopens the government.
Trump targeted illegal immigrants and minority groups during his campaign and at one point promised to ban Muslims from entering the country.
Nearly 800,000 noncritical employees of nine agencies were sent home without pay at the beginning of the shutdown.
On Jan. 15, the Trump administration called 50,000 of them back to work without pay.
In a nationally televised speech, Trump called illegal immigration at the southern border, “a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.”
Trump claimed that the crisis is responsible for the loss of jobs in minority communities, and blamed illegal immigration at the southern border for the opioid crisis, murders by undocumented immigrants and human trafficking.
“Women and children are the biggest victims by far of our broken system. … This is the tragic reality of uncontrolled migration on our southern border.”
Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said there is no crisis and pointed out that Trump’s policies have only made things worse at the border.
“The women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge — a challenge that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened,” said Pelosi.
Since the shutdown started, 95 percent of HUD employees have been sent home without pay, and the two sides remain in a stalemate.
“We are very hopeful it does not extend through February. These are unprecedented times,” said Huang. “We are not sure what is going to happen.”