Section 8

City will close rent subsidy waiting list

Signing up new families would give ‘false hope’
2013-03-08T19:00:00Z 2013-03-08T21:52:00Z City will close rent subsidy waiting listCHANTAL M. LOVELL Napa Valley Register
March 08, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

With nearly 10,000 households waiting for rent subsidies, the city of Napa is closing its sign-up list for the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program.

Housing Manager Lark Ferrell said at the rate the Housing Authority is able to issue assistance vouchers, it would take 24 years to serve those already on the list. It is largely made up of people who neither work nor live in Napa County.

Closing the list would allow Napa to focus on serving the local demand, improve efficiency and put an end to the false hope that can be perpetuated by keeping the list open.

“When I joined the Housing Authority staff, local veterans  who were either a senior or disabled or had children in their family could get assistance in about six months to a year,” Ferrell, who came to the city a year ago, told the City Council, which serves on the Housing Authority board. “It’s now well over two years.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the program, recommends local agencies close their waiting lists when the wait is longer than two years so as to prevent giving families false hope, Ferrell said. She said closing the list would also enable the housing authority to give those already on the list a better idea of when they might receive assistance.

Of the more than 9,600 households on the list as of Tuesday, 70 percent were out-of-county workers and residents, Ferrell said. In reality, they won’t get funding from Napa, as Napa gives preferential treatment to local residents and workers.

Because Section 8 is a nationally funded assistance program, the city must accept applicants regardless of where they work and live, but may give preference to locals.

“It’s unfortunate because it leaves people out there with an assumption that there are programs they can use when in reality they can’t,” Councilman Peter Mott said. “We’re sort of stuck with this situation that if we don’t play along with the game, we’re not going to get the funding we might otherwise.”

Napa is one of only three local housing authorities that has an open waiting list, so it has seen an influx of applications recently, Ferrell said.

“People are trying to get in whenever they can,” Ferrell said. “It’s causing a lot of administrative time for our staff to add people. We can’t turn anyone away whether they’re from out of town or local.”

Closing the wait list, which the housing authority plans to do at 5 p.m. on March 29, will largely free up the one-third of a staff position required to maintain it, Ferrell said. Some time will still be spent maintaining the list, which will be reopened when the locals on the list have received funding.

Ferrell said the city may be able to open the list to a target group lacking on the list, which in the future could be locals.

On average, each Section 8 recipients receive $712 toward monthly rent, Ferrell said. Prior to “sequestration” of the federal budget taking effect last week, the housing authority was issuing about 10 new vouchers each month thanks to turnover.

With the sequestration cuts, the housing authority will no longer issue new vouchers, regardless of how many families fall off the program. Last week, Ferrell reported the housing authority was expecting a 6 percent funding cut, which could force it to revoke 73 existing vouchers.

On Tuesday, she said staff are reviewing reserves to see if there is money that could lessen the impact.

Ferrell said 16 would-be Section 8 recipient households have already felt the impact of the automatic budget cuts. Those families and/or individuals were new recipients of Section 8 assistance who were looking for housing but had not yet signed leases for apartments. Their vouchers were revoked following sequestration.


Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. LocalYocal
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    LocalYocal - March 08, 2013 1:11 pm
    What happened to the idea that if you can't afford to live somewhere then you don't get to live there?
  2. publiusa
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    publiusa - March 08, 2013 2:04 pm
    This is the Democrats at their best. Raise taxes and take away services on the poor. Last year we passed a half cent sales tax increase at state level and a new road tax at county level and the federal level reports ever increasing income...but poor people at the bottom pay the price. Democrats are running federal, state, county and city governments. You put them there now look how they treat the poor - they take housing away from the poorest people. But where does thee money go? How about fire captains making $250,000 per year and can retire at age 50 with full pay and benefits - because they have a union that scares the city. Poor people vote for democrats for a hand out then its taken away because they don't have a vicious union to represent them. The dems in power walk on people they don't fear. Just politics, maa'm.
  3. napa1957
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    napa1957 - March 08, 2013 11:11 pm
    I agree. Hopefully their stated purpose to service local residents first will be upheld.
  4. napa1957
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    napa1957 - March 08, 2013 11:14 pm
    I was just reading about the three calligraphers employed by the White House for $300,000 a year. Get a computer and put that money in the budget for something worth while. Every one says, oh, that's just a drop in the bucket, but if you stop enough drops, it adds up.
  5. msetty
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    msetty - March 09, 2013 11:44 am
    Actually, publiusa, it is the results of 10 years of no net job growth under the Bush Administration, with two years hangover into Obama's first term. It is the result of trivial increases in the minimum wage that has failed to keep up with the real rate of inflation over the past 30 years starting with your precious Reagan. It is the result of policies supported by people like you when worker productivity has increased 75% since 1980 but pay levels hardly at all, particularly relative to basic necessities whose prices are not completely accounted for in government inflation statistics understating real inflation, i.e., the 1% have pocketed the difference, not the average person.

    Increase the minimum wage to $10.10 as proposed by Pelosi and Costco's, wait out the cheapskates complaining when Big Macs go up $0.25, and then reap the rewards of an improved Obama economy, particularly when those at the bottom are getting by better and a lot fewer will not need housing subsidies.
  6. publiusa
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    publiusa - March 09, 2013 6:25 pm
    To Msetty. Tell me again why people who need housing assistance can't get it? Why do some live their lives out on government assistance and others who need it can't get help? Why is that some people would take less just to get in the system and negotiate lower rent to make it work. That's using initiative, its the American way, why? Why do government employees keep their jobs til retirement when there are 500 people in line for those jobs and the applicants would work for half pay and no benefits just to get in the door, why?
  7. justsaying707
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    justsaying707 - March 11, 2013 8:57 am
    I have always wondered why there is not a limit on how long someone should be on housing. Seems that after 3 years they should be kicked off so that the people who have been on the list for over 4 years and that are Napa residents can have the opportunity to do the same. Seems that the people on it stay on it and so well instead of change the way it works, let us just say screw all you that need help guess you should have signed up sooner.
  8. MartyB
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    MartyB - April 11, 2015 12:09 pm
    I find this article very interesting for 2013. Now it is 2015 and found out my friend has been on Social Security Disability Insurance for many years and on the list for 5 years and he was next to be chosen on top for a place to live very excited then found out they put him on the 5 year wait list again. How unfair they are. This person was very disabled and had proof of his medical condition also. Very unfair .
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