Housing Authority Clarifies the Need for Funding
Recent media coverage has placed the spotlight on the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority and the growing gap between the number of Ada County families whose rent we subsidize (nearly 2,000) and the number of families needing help who are on our waiting list (nearly 2,700). While we appreciate the growing awareness, there are a few points we would like to clarify to aid in a better understanding.
The Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority is a quasi-governmental entity created by Idaho state statutes to provide essential governmental functions for all of the communities of Ada County. We operate a number of programs. The largest one is our Housing Choice Voucher Rental Assistance (Section 8) program which is funded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Through this program, we assist families lacking adequate income to pay their rent and utilities.
In order to obtain assistance, families must make application with our agency and have their applications processed through our eligibility department. Once approved for the program, each family receives a voucher which is similar to a “license” to search for housing with a commitment from the housing authority to make up the difference between 30 to 40% of the household income and the rental amount. Once housing has been located and a landlord is willing to participate in our program, we schedule an inspection to ensure the housing meets basic housing quality standards. If the rent amount falls within the range we can pay according to limitations made by HUD, we enter into an annual, renewable contract with the landlord.
We have an annual contract with the federal government to pay rent subsidies for those families currently participating in our rental assistance program and that contract continues to be honored by the federal government.
Over the past few years, through funding cutbacks, pro-rations and holdbacks, over 100,000 families across the nation have lost rental assistance in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Here in the Treasure Valley, we have had very little fluctuation in our program size, but we have not had adequate funding to assist the additional families who have applied for and are waiting for assistance for at least the next few months. However, no families currently under contract are at risk of losing their assistance due to our funding situation and no landlord currently under contract to receive housing assistance payments need worry about the housing authority honoring its commitment to pay rental subsidy. In the history of the program, we have never operated without a waiting list. The demand is always higher than we can supply. The demand is greater now because our supply is falling further and further behind as the need continues to rise in our growing Treasure Valley.
So, although we need more money to help people in need, our programs are running as they always have. To help address the need, we have stepped up our efforts to secure funding where we can. In the last few months we have made application to the Department of Justice for rental and supportive services assistance for women fleeing domestic violence, to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for rental and supportive service assistance for homeless veterans and to the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration for supportive services for those needing housing assistance and support for contending with mental illness/substance abuse challenges. We will continue to endeavor to administer our programs with efficiency and integrity and to find additional ways to help fulfill the goal of making our Treasure Valley communities the most “livable” in the nation.
BCACHA Executive Director Deanna Watson and BCACHA Board Chairman Michael P. Wilson