Section 8 up and running in Nevada County, for now | TheUnion.com

Section 8 up and running in Nevada County, for now

The Regional Housing Authority announced good news this month for low-income Nevada County residents whose rental assistance vouchers had been suspended for nearly half a year.

Housing Choice vouchers — formerly known as Section 8 — were re-issued Jan. 2, according to Gustavo Becerra, the Housing Authority's executive director.

In August, the Housing Authority, which administers the vouchers in Nevada, Yuba, Sutter and Colusa counties, had reached its budget for 2017.

"In our industry, that's actually a good thing," Becerra said. "It means we're maximizing the amount of families that can be assisted per our budget. In other words, we don't have dollars just sitting there and families not being housed."

At the time, those who'd been issued vouchers but hadn't yet secured rentals were told their vouchers were suspended until further notice.

It was tough news for people who'd been searching for rentals in today's housing market.

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When the Housing Authority issues a voucher, that person has 60 days to put the rental assistance to use. When someone can't find a rental within that time, they can request an extension, which Becerra said is granted on a case-by-case basis.

This month, the Housing Authority's budget was refreshed, which allowed the agency to re-issue the frozen vouchers with a "fresh clock," Becerra said.

An additional 100 people who were on the waiting list for rental assistance in Nevada County were asked this month whether they'd still want a voucher.

According to Becerra, about 45 people responded to that inquiry, and he says those people will likely be given vouchers within the next week.

The Housing Authority isn't accepting new people on the waiting list, which currently has about 300 names on it for Nevada County, Becerra said.

'STRANGE TIMES'

The challenge for those who have vouchers is often finding available housing in their price range, and finding landlords who will accept the rental assistance, according to the Housing Authority.

"The shortage of housing is at record territory," Becerra said. "It's a market we've never seen. We understand it's very frustrating for people, and we wish we could do more."

The Housing Authority owns a handful of properties that it rents out to clients, but those units are frequently full. Many have their own waiting lists.

"On the development side, we can't build them fast enough," Becerra said. "We wish we had the financial resources to build more and roll out that red carpet for voucher-holders."

The Housing Authority can't provide information about how many vouchers it will issue this year, Becerra said, in part because of uncertainty over its funding.

"We don't know what our full funding is going to be for the Section 8 program," Becerra said. "(The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) has given us some projections, which are less funding than we had in 2017, but we're not going to know the full effect until we have a budget from the feds. It's quite possible that if our funding level is less than in 2017, we may be back into shortfall once again.

"We could have to stop issuing vouchers and freeze any out on the street much earlier this year … These are very strange times we're living in."

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.

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