Grand Junction Housing Authority takes over Section 8 | CraigDailyPress.com

Grand Junction Housing Authority takes over Section 8

Collin Smith

The Grand Junction Housing Authority now has an official agreement with Moffat County to manage the area’s 72 Section 8 housing vouchers.

Housing Authority officials said they hope it doesn’t last any longer than planned.

The Grand Junction-based agency will administer all of Moffat County’s vouchers, as well as Rio Blanco County’s nine, after the Colorado Division of Housing took the program away from the Craig-based Independent Life Center.

Section 8 vouchers pay the majority of a person or family’s rent if they qualify for the program. Eligibility is based on income and number of children.

Ryan McMaken, Division of Housing spokesman, said in a previous interview, the state made its decision because the Life Center could not manage its finances in a way that complied with state wishes.

The Housing Authority’s contract runs through June 30, 2010.

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“After that point, we would ask that the county have someone locally to take on the program,” said Lori Rosendahl, Housing Authority director of operations.

In the meantime, her agency will work to bring the Section 8 program back into compliance with state requests, including monitoring the number of vouchers released to residents.

Although Moffat and Rio Blanco counties are eligible for 81 permanent vouchers and seven temporary vouchers, Rosendahl told the Commission there could be about 100 issued to area residents.

However, she does not see anything wrong with this. It is possible the Life Center over-issued vouchers in expectation of people leaving the program.

“Lots of housing authorities over-issue in anticipation of turnover,” Rosendahl said. “We (the Grand Junction Housing Authority) over-issue in anticipation of turnover.”

She said the issue probably was an extension of current economic problems.

“I think people are staying put, certainly,” Rosendahl said.

Although there may be more residents with vouchers than normally allowed, she added, no one with a voucher stands in danger of losing theirs.

“Absolutely not,” Rosendahl said. “The (Colorado) Division of Housing will honor every voucher that has been issued. We wouldn’t do that, either. That wouldn’t be productive or fair to anybody.”

However, if there is no local organization willing to take on the program by the end of the current contract, then Moffat County as a whole would stand to lose all its vouchers.

Existing terms state that if the Grand Junction Housing Authority continues to manage the program after the deadline, then the vouchers will move to Mesa County as they become available.

In this scenario, whenever a voucher holder gives up their voucher – in the case of death or because they no longer met the income requirements – that voucher would leave Moffat County for good. Eventually, every voucher would leave.

Rosendahl couldn’t say if the terms could be changed after the deadline because the state and the Grand Junction Housing Authority board approved the contract signed. Those parties would have to be consulted before any changes could be made.

During the Moffat County Commission meeting Tuesday, where local officials approved this contract, Craig resident and former Commission candidate Lois Wymore stood up and said it would be a travesty if Moffat County lost its housing vouchers.

Wymore ran against Commissioner Tom Gray, who was re-elected to his second term in November.

“I appreciate the help, but I don’t think it’s Grand Junction’s business,” Wymore told the Commission. “It’s Moffat County’s business.”

She added the county should consider folding the program into its own housing authority, which currently manages Sunset Meadows I and II.

Gray said he didn’t disagree with Wymore’s position, but the county will have to review its finances before making a decision.

“We certainly want to keep the vouchers here, if we can,” Gray said. “This buys us some time to find someone locally.”

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com