Rental help comes to a halt
City closes waiting list for subsidies
Confronted with a ballooning number of people seeking housing assistance and no indications of being able to help them anytime soon, the Grand Junction Housing Authority temporarily will close its waiting list of people seeking federal rental subsidies.
Starting March 1 and continuing for about seven months, the agency will cease accepting applications and adding names to a list that already numbers more than 3,000, which is about three times the number of people officials currently are able to serve in the Section 8 housing program. It’s the first time in 13 years the Housing Authority has closed the waiting list, according to Director of Operations Lori Rosendahl.
“We considered it for quite a while, but it’s a hard decision to make,” Housing Authority Executive Director Jody Kole said. “You balance two different statements. One is people can apply for the waiting list, and we tell them it might be two or three years. The alternate message is we’ve closed the waiting list, and you don’t even get to stand in line. Both of those messages are hard messages to hear and hard messages to tell to a community when people are really in need of a little bit of help.”
Administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Section 8 program provides rental subsidies to low-income renters and homeowners. Subsidies are based on a recipient’s income.
The Housing Authority currently provides vouchers to 1,010 families and individuals, according to Rosendahl. The list of people waiting to receive that assistance has jumped from a little more than 1,300 in 2008 to roughly 3,000 this year, Kole said.
The line of people seeking help is stretching not only because of the slow-to-improve economy, but because the Housing Authority hasn’t received any new vouchers from HUD — other than for homeless veterans — in five years, Kole said.
Keeping open a waiting list without any confidence of securing additional vouchers anytime soon effectively gives clients-in-waiting false hope, and the Housing Authority isn’t interested in doing that, she said.
In addition, the agency trimmed its staffing in the past several months, laying off two employees and reducing two others from full-time to part-time work. That reduction made it more difficult to maintain such a large waiting list, Kole said.
Taking a break from accepting housing-assistance applications will give the Housing Authority time to purge the names of anyone who no longer needs assistance or who has moved out of the area. Once that task is completed, the agency will reopen the waiting list. That’s expected to be around Oct. 1, although Kole said staff won’t make a decision about the date for a while.
The closure of the waiting list for Section 8 assistance doesn’t affect the waiting list for apartments owned and managed by the Housing Authority, which remains open.