Families have to wait up to a year for rental assistance | PostIndependent.com

Families have to wait up to a year for rental assistance

Pete Fowler
pfowler@postindependent.com
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The Garfield County Housing Authority’s wait list time for rental assistance has grown to about a year while the organization waits for federal funding.

Traditionally the wait list time ranges from four to six months, and the longest it’s ever been is about eight months, said Executive Director Geneva Powell. By comparison, she said, waiting lists for similar rental assistance programs in Grand Junction or Denver may take more than a year.

“Right now the rents we’re actually paying out in Garfield County is over the amount that we’re being allocated,” she said. “We had to freeze the waiting list until we find out what our funding is going to be. … It’s the way that we have to control the funding allocation given to us by Congress.”

The housing authority normally increases its wait list time as it waits to find out how much federal funding it will receive each year. It usually finds out in February, Powell said. The federal funding for the rental assistance program for this year was part of an omnibus bill signed in March, Powell said, but HUD’s fiscal year ended in September.

“We’ve been operating since October 1 without any clue of what our budget numbers were going to be for 2009,” she said.

That happens every year, but this year it’s taking a little bit longer, and it’s increasing the housing authority’s wait list time for rental assistance. Powell didn’t know the reason for the funding delay but said it’s possible it takes longer when a new administration takes office and wants to review things.

This year the phenomenon seems to be getting more attention, perhaps due to the economic downturn.

“People are very desperate, and there’s more people that need the rental assistance,” Powell said. “We’re telling people, ‘We know you need it. We know the economy is bad. We can’t help you yet due to the funding.’ Maybe that’s why it’s getting more attention.”

The housing authority has 397 families on the rental assistance program, for which it gives out up to $250,000 a month, Powell said.

The housing authority is helping the most families it has since about four years ago and has successfully gotten the federal government to agree to allow it to pay greater shares of people’s rents, Powell said.

The housing authority expects to get an indication of when it will receive federal funding later this month. The rental assistance waiting list will be frozen until at least July.

“I know that that’s really hard for people that thought they would be in the next group of people we took off the waiting list, but we have to do that because we have to work from the funding allocation that we get from Congress,” Powell said.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

pfowler@postindependent.com


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