Housing funds short for renters

Some families could end up homeless without financial aid

Dozens of Grand Valley families who rely on federal assistance to help pay their rent could potentially find themselves homeless unless the Grand Junction Housing Authority receives a boost in funding next year.

A decline this year in subsidies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rental-assistance program has prevented the Housing Authority from issuing any new vouchers and forced it to drain its reserve funds, even as its waiting list for housing balloons to an all-time high.

A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research institute that works on public programs that affect low- and moderate-income citizens, indicated an estimated 400 agencies across the country will be forced this year to reduce or eliminate rental assistance for a significant number of the 500,000 low-income families they serve.

Earlier this summer, the Garfield County Housing Authority notified 76 households it would have to cut them loose because of a funding reduction. The Garfield County Housing Authority later received the $340,000 it needed from a set-aside fund intended to help in times of financial hardship after U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and U.S. Rep John Salazar, D-Colo., urged HUD to free up money.

Grand Junction Housing Authority Executive Director Jody Kole said the agency won’t have to stop subsidizing any of its clients’ rents this year. But that’s only because the Housing Authority spent all $284,000 in reserve funds, received another $175,000 in HUD stop-gap funding and hasn’t issued any new vouchers since last September.

Kole said the authority is subsidizing rent for 868 households, 42 less than it should be able to assist. Not only is the authority not reaching as many families in need, but it’s also having to shed households through attrition.

That means if a family no longer needs assistance, Kole can’t give that voucher to someone on the waiting list, which now exceeds 1,800 people.

“The names go on (the list), but they don’t come off,” Kole said.

She said HUD has told the Housing Authority that rental-assistance funding will increase during the 2010 federal fiscal year, which begins Thursday . If that doesn’t happen for some reason, Kole said the Housing Authority would be forced to slice subsidies to families or remove them from the program.

The Housing Authority is facing a $35,000 deficit this month, paying landlords who accept vouchers $410,000 while receiving $375,000 from HUD. If that continues in 2010, it could be faced with revoking 75 vouchers.

“It’s always a balancing act to manage the voucher program under HUD funding,” Kole said. “It will be just even more precarious next year.”


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