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Housing voucher waitlist opens after four years

Recipients contribute 30 percent of income toward rent, utilities
Housing Solutions for the Southwest opened its waiting list for Housing Choice Vouchers this week. The vouchers help low-income residents pay their monthly rent and utility bills.

The waitlist for federal housing vouchers in La Plata County and neighboring counties opened this week for the first time in more than four years.

Housing Solutions of the Southwest staff members saw a flood of interest in the Housing Choice Voucher waitlist when it opened Tuesday.

“I believe we probably had 50 or more people come through,” Executive Director Elizabeth Salkind said.

About 30 interested residents lined up before the office opened, just to put their name on the list. The nonprofit will not be able to serve applicants from La Plata, Archuleta and San Juan counties immediately, she said.

The program, formerly known as Section 8, serves low-income families, the elderly and disabled. Those who hold the vouchers pay 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities, and federal funding covers the rest.

The nonprofit is required to give the vouchers to applicants who are disabled, homeless or experiencing domestic violence first.

The waitlist was closed because there were between 200 and 300 names on it, Programs Manager Tami Miller said.

“There was really no point in keeping the application process going,” she said.

The nonprofit was able to open the list up again because the number of people on the waitlist dwindled as applicants were served, moved away or found other housing options.

The list is also not likely to stay open long, although there is no specific number of applications that would close it, Salkind said.

The new applicants will likely not be served right away because only about 10 of the 140 vouchers for the three-county area become available every year, Miller said.

Those who hold vouchers can use them until 30 percent of their income is enough to cover 100 percent of their rent and utilities, Miller said.

One of the challenges for those with vouchers can be finding housing within the rent limits. For example, the voucher will allow a family to rent a two-bedroom home for up to $1,043 including utilities, Salkind said.

The nonprofit staff has talked with the state’s Division of Housing about increasing rent limits for the region, but if those limits were increased, the nonprofit would have fewer vouchers to distribute, Miller said.

Residents can apply in person to be placed on the list from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the Housing Solutions office at 295 Girard St.

Applicants must have birthdays and Social Security numbers for all members of their family to apply, and Housing Solutions encourages interested residents to apply as soon as possible.

For information about locations that accept applications in San Juan and Archuleta counties, call Housing Solutions at 259-1086.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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