Voucher program eases rent burden

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— A federal rent-assistance program that has had success in Grand County is being set up locally to aid lower-income residents who may be struggling to make the monthly lease payment on their apartment or condominium.
The Grand County Housing Authority, in conjunction with Routt County's Regional Affordable Living Foundation, will make "Section 8" housing vouchers available to approximately 20 Routt County households. Applications for the vouchers, which would assist those renting an apartment, mobile home, townhome or condominium, are available at the Hillside Village apartments on Fish Creek Fall Road in Steamboat Springs.
Grand County, which already offers the federally-funded program, decided to aid RALF in administrating the voucher program in Routt County at the suggestion of the Colorado Division of Housing.
"The trend has been to move towards multi-jurisdictional projects," said Jim Sheehan, the executive director of the Grand County Housing Authority.
Overseeing the vouchers entails reviewing applications and inspecting houses to make sure they comply with Department of Housing and Urban Development standards. The money comes from HUD, which also administers public housing projects. Unlike housing projects, however, the housing voucher program allows families to look for their own rental property and to receive rent subsidies for those units. Residents who already are living in rental units also can apply for the program.
The vouchers would pay for a portion of a household's rent if the residents of the household meet the income requirements. The government will subsidize rents to the point at which the residents are paying no more than 30 percent of their monthly income for housing.
If, for instance, a resident who lives alone and makes $1,000 a month has to pay $400 for rent, that person would be entitled to a voucher worth about $100, effectively cutting his or her rent burden to 30 percent of monthly income.
The program, however, will not pay for rent in amounts over certain "payment standards." For a one-bedroom home, that standard is $516 in Grand County, meaning the federal government will not subsidize rent over the $516 mark. The vouchers will make up the difference between 30 percent of income and the payment standard, but if someone's rent is over the payment standard, he or she will have to pay the difference.
"We realize that Routt County has different issues in terms of housing costs," Sheehan said. Sheehan expects that the Routt County payment standards will be higher than those in Grand County.
After receiving applications for the subsidy, Grand County Housing Authority officials will review potential participants for income requirements, conduct a criminal background check and then put them on a waiting list. If HUD is forthcoming with the county's requests, the Grand County officials will inspect the homes of the applicants for HUD compliancy. If the homes pass the test, the checks can start being sent.
RALF will help Grand County market the program and will collect the applications at Hillside Village apartments.
Sheehan said that Grand County, home to Kremmling and Granby, has had a lot of success with the vouchers, currently aiding a total of 30 households.
Rob Dick, the executive director of RALF , is excited about the program.
"The rental market has been extremely tight for the last six months. People are getting desperate," Dick said. "Section 8 vouchers will alleviate some of that pressure."

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