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King County Housing Authority to resume issuing rental assistance vouchers

Birch Creek is a public housing apartment complex in Kent. - COURTESY PHOTO, King County Housing Authority
Birch Creek is a public housing apartment complex in Kent.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO, King County Housing Authority

The King County Housing Authority (KCHA) will resume issuing Section 8 vouchers to families, including those in Kent and Auburn, on its general waiting list.

The waiting list has been frozen for the past 11 months as a result of sequestration, the automatic budget cuts to all federal programs that went into effect March 1, 2013, according to a Tuesday KCHA media release.

Kent and Auburn each have several public housing locations.

The move to unfreeze the list is due to the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, in which funding levels to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program were restored to approximately 99 percent of housing authorities’ eligible funding.

“After nearly a year on hold, families on our waiting list can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” said Stephen Norman, executive director of KCHA. “For that we are deeply grateful to Sen. Patty Murray, who successfully negotiated to reverse last year’s devastating sequester cuts to the Section 8 program.”

“I am so proud King County Housing Authority will once again be able to provide assistance to those in need,” said Sen. Murray, D-Wash., who reached a bipartisan budget deal with Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that rolled back a significant portion of sequestration cuts. “Many of these families in King County were unfairly paying the price as Washington D.C., lurched from crisis to crisis, and that’s why I fought hard to ensure the budget agreement reversed some of the most harmful impacts of sequestration that were hurting families across the country.”

KCHA lost approximately $6.3 million in funding last year due to sequestration and stopped issuing vouchers on turnover to families on its general waiting list.

“There continues to be a critical shortage of housing affordable to low-income families,” said Norman. “In the aftermath of the recession, families at the lower end of the income scale are still being hampered by unemployment or underemployment and elderly and disabled people are barely surviving on low, fixed incomes. Yet already high rents continue to rise. The Section 8 program helps protect the well-being of thousands of economically disadvantaged households. A Section 8 voucher is often all that stands between a struggling family and homelessness.”

The Section 8 program provides vouchers that enable the most vulnerable low-income families, including elderly and disabled individuals, to rent private apartments. KCHA currently provides assistance to about 11,000 households on any given night. A typical household has an average annual income of $13,846. Many of these families were already homeless, doubled-up or on the verge of becoming homeless when they received their voucher.

The most recent one night count of people living on the streets of Seattle and King County showed an increase from 2,736 in 2012 to 3,117 in 2013.

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