As Napa rents continue marching upward, the city is boosting federally funded vouchers in a bid to help more tenants – especially families – keep pace.
New payment standards approved by the city Housing Authority on Tuesday will raise reimbursements for those taking part in the federal Section 8 rental subsidy program. Voucher holders will be entitled to an extra $151 per month for a two-bedroom residence, $215 more on a three-bedroom unit and $217 for a four-bedroom home.
The larger payments will cost the city an extra $185,000, and the federal Housing and Urban Development department – which supervises the Section 8 housing voucher system – would repay Napa any reserves it uses to increase its rent supports.
Under Section 8, local housing agencies must set payment levels for rent vouchers between 90 and 110 percent of the local fair-market rent, which HUD revises each October. Local housing agencies such as Napa’s distribute funds provided by the federal agency.
Napa’s upgraded voucher payments equal 105 percent of the city’s fair-market rent levels, but another adjustment is possible after HUD revises its rent standards this fall, according to Lark Ferrell, city housing manager.
The decision follows a 13.5 percent jump in average rents – to $1,771 monthly – for the second quarter compared to a year earlier, in a city where strong housing demand has driven vacancy levels below 2 percent.
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Ferrell said a more generous allowance is needed to stem the flow of tenants to cheaper housing in Solano County, and to shore up a success rate for voucher use that has fallen from 76 to 67 percent in the past year as the wait for subsidized housing grows.
Increased reimbursements affect households occupying 304 two-bedroom, 11 three-bedroom and six four-bedroom homes in Napa, Ferrell told the seven-person Housing Authority, which includes the City Council and two other members. Multi-bedroom housing represents about 40 percent of the city’s 1,185 Section 8 subsidized units.
How much effect the more generous voucher allowances might have for tenants remained up for debate.
“I’m hoping this will drive some new interest in getting some other landlords into play” to offer subsidized housing, said Councilman Peter Mott. But Ferrell cautioned the city not to expect quick and dramatic effects on the housing supply.
“I’d love to hear from those landlords, but it’s such a tight rental market right now, it’s going to take more than that to entice people to participate,” she said, adding the city needs to better promote the Section 8 program to property owners – and, when possible, signing long-term deals with landlords to reserve portions of housing developments for voucher holders.
Housing officials left voucher levels for studio and one-bedroom units the same, at $853 and $1,074 a month, respectively.