Housing vouchers are still available

Number of housing applications exceeds available vouchers

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The Independent Life Center in Craig has received more applications for low-income housing vouchers than it has vouchers, yet residents are still encouraged to apply.

"They might be served more quickly if some people refuse the voucher or the voucher gets revoked," said Evelyn Tileston, Independent Life Center Director. "We do have more applications than vouchers, so we expect they will all get used."

The vouchers were made available by HUD to offset the cost of housing for low-income families. Twenty-five vouchers were given to the Independent Life Center (ILC) to be issued to the residents of Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. Twenty-nine applications have been received. The ILC has been encouraged to apply for additional vouchers in 2003 and a waiting list could determine how many vouchers are issued, Tileston said.

The housing vouchers are being used to benefit very low-income residents. Eighty percent will be issued to qualified applicants whose income level is 30 percent of poverty level, meaning a family of four must have a household gross income of less than $13,700 a year.

Twenty percent of the vouchers are earmarked for people in HUD's low-income bracket those whose household income is less than $22,850 a year for a family of four.

"This is designed to reach low-income people who are in need of affordable housing," Tileston said. "It's amazing that people are expected to live on that income. The problem is that the rules that come from Washington, D.C. aren't realistic for the rest of the world. They have no concept of how the rest of the world lives."

An income-based formula is used to determine how much a family receives to pay for housing. According to the HUD formula, no more than 30 percent of a low-income family's income should be spent on housing, so the vouchers are used to make up the difference between that 30 percent and what HUD determines is the fair market value for housing. That value is $417 in Moffat County.

According to the HUD formula, a family with an income of $10,000 should pay $300 a month for housing. HUD would pay $117 to make up the difference between what a family can pay and the $417 that has been established as the fair market value for housing.

The benefits are paid directly to the applicant's landlord.

The program has already been used to help several Moffat County families, including one family who lived in a dilapidated home with a dirt floor in the basement that was covered in water that backed up from the sewage lines.

I was searching around to find someone or some organization to help me," said Abbiee Miner. "I called the Independent Life Center and the next thing I knew thanks were moving fast.

"I hated to give up the housee because it has so many memories, but you've got to do what you've got to do," she said.

Through the program, she will be moving from her two bedroom home into a four bedroom home, giving each child their own room. In her current house, Miner's daughter sleeps in the utility room because it had enough room for a bed and a small dresser.

"It's a good program," Miner said. "I hope it can help a bunch of people."

There are factors than can prevent low-income applicants from receiving the voucher. Past felony convictions, assault or drug-related crimes make an applicant ineligible if they apply within three years of the conviction. Past felony convictions for a sex offense make the applicant ineligible for life.

"The thing that causes us the most grief is the requirement for criminal background checks," Tileston said.

The ILC board of directors has prioritized eligibility by placing the disabled at the top of the list. After that, they fall back on HUD's recommendations for prioritization, which put those who are homeless or victims of domestic violence at the top of the list.

"HUD has a list of priorities that move you up the list, but the decision is made locally," said April Robidoux, ILC housing coordinator.

The vouchers are good for as long as the applicant meets the income requirements and they can be transferred to any town or state, but they can be revoked. If a person holding a housing voucher is convicted for a felony or commits fraud has a higher income or alternate income than they originally disclosed the voucher will be taken away.

Anyone interested in applying for a housing voucher, or who would like more information, can call Tileston or Robidoux at 826-0833.

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