Craig The Craig City Council showed unanimous support for the Section 8 housing voucher program at its Tuesday meeting.
Section 8 is under pressure because the Independent Life Center - which contracts with the Colorado Division of Housing to provide the program in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties - cannot afford to keep the program, said Evelyn Tileston, Life Center executive director.
Section 8 vouchers pay for most of a person's rent if they qualify for the program. Eligibility is based on income and number of children.
"The Section 8 voucher program no longer supports itself," Tileston told the council. "It no longer lets the Independent Life Center give normal merit raises and benefits to (the Section 8 program) coordinator."
The Life Center loses about $1,000 to $1,300 each month administering the program, Tileston said. Unless her organization can find supplementary funding, it will drop the program.
Although the council did not move to provide the funding, which Evelyn estimated would be about $14,000 for a year, councilors said the program is important for the community.
"I just feel compelled to help those who have less," Councilor Bill Johnston said.
There also is a community need the Section 8 program addresses, councilors said.
"We're going to be launching into a big discussion about housing at some point around here," Councilor Terry Carwile said. "Sure seems a shame to lose a barebones program that helps low-income families in our community."
"This might be the cheapest low-income housing program we'll see in our lifetime," he said.
The council made it clear, though, the funding would not be permanent.
Whatever money the council approved in the future, it would be for up to only one year, and then the Life Center would have to find another way.
Councilors added they did not want to support the whole program, that Moffat and Rio Blanco counties should contribute.
"Before we do anything, I think we should have a dialogue with the county commissioners," Councilor Byron Willems said. "That should be a challenge."
Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara, who attended the meeting, said the commission was looking into its budget, but the possibility looked bleak.
"Really, we're going to be hard-pressed to find the money she's looking for," Tayyara said.
Section 8 was not always in bad shape, Tileston said.
"This program actually started out to be self-supporting, which is why I accepted it in the first place" in 2002, she said.
But now the program is broken, Tileston said, because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has not kept up with local rent costs.
A person may only use a Section 8 voucher if the rent of a place they live in meets HUD's fair market rent values, which include rent plus all utilities.
Fair market rents in Moffat County are too low for local voucher holders to find places to live, Tileston said. Making it worse for the Life Center is the fact that HUD only pays administrative costs to program contractors - such as the Life Center - for the vouchers that are used.
The Life Center has 88 vouchers, 79 of which are currently leased up. There are another 100 people on the voucher waiting list.
HUD also canceled extra "hard-to-house" payments, which provided more money for vouchers going to families with disabled parents or those with a large number of children.
If the Life Center dropped its Section 8 program, current voucher holders would not lose their vouchers.
However, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties would not receive any other vouchers, and as current voucher holders went off the program - whether through death or ineligibility - the county would not get anymore.
The council also passed a motion to draft letters for U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., to ask for their support at the federal level.