Housing authority re-opens wait list

For the first time since March, the Grand Junction Housing Authority has opened its waiting list to people seeking housing assistance.

The Housing Authority saw a surge in applications for Section 8 housing vouchers for low-income individuals and families after local unemployment jumped in early 2009. Vouchers were quickly snatched up and the waiting list for voucher overturn reached 3,500 names by this March. The Housing Authority temporarily stopped taking applications but reopened the application process Oct. 22 after purging the list of people who either found another way to pay for housing or moved away from the area.

As of Friday, the Housing Authority had received 250 applications in less than three weeks, according to Chief Operating Officer Lori Rosendahl. Rosendahl said the Housing Authority received 79 applications for vouchers the first day the waiting list opened. Applications are available at http://www.gjha.org or at the Housing Authority office at 1011 N. 10th St.

Some people remain on the waiting list for up to three years, Rosendahl said, so she wasn’t surprised 2,500 names came off the list in the purge. The list is now at 1,291 names, including homeless veterans waiting for a different type of voucher specifically for them. Rosendahl said she’ll probably take applications until the list reaches about 1,400 names.

Rosendahl said the Housing Authority usually takes 125 to 150 voucher applications each month when the waiting list is open. She said the list was shut down because lower staffing levels and budget cuts made it difficult in recent years to take time to purge old names from the list while so many new names were rolling in.

“With the downturn, our list doubled in a year. We couldn’t keep up,” Rosendahl said, referring to the 2010-11 budget year compared to 2009-10.

Rosendahl said the Housing Authority works to get families self-sufficient so families can relinquish vouchers and allow the Housing Authority to move other people off the wait list as quickly as possible. With no new funding for vouchers and times still tough, Rosendahl said the Housing Authority was able to pull 100 names off the waiting list through attrition and get those families vouchers in October, but that was the first time the list had moved in a year.

Families who get vouchers pay 30 percent of their income toward rent and the Housing Authority pays the remainder of the rent cost.

“Most of our families are paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent, so we are able to fill that gap,” Rosendahl said. “With the price of housing in our community, you need to earn about $14 an hour to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment. If you need a three-bedroom home, you need to earn about $23 an hour.”


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