HRA seeking landlords
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Carlton County has a unique problem, according to Dan Moore of the Cloquet/Carlton Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
“Most housing authorities don’t have enough [Section 8] vouchers,” Moore said, noting that the problem in Carlton County is there aren’t enough rental homes and apartments that participate in Carlton County’s Section 8 program, which means many families and individuals who qualify for Section 8 housing assistance still can’t find a place to live within the county.
“In our case,” he said, “a lot of vouchers expire before people can find a place that qualifies.”
In a nutshell, Section 8 works like this: A family or individual who qualifies – and moves far enough up the waiting list – is issued a housing voucher. They have 60 days to find a suitable rental home or apartment that meets their needs and passes federal government requirements for price and safety. The landlord must be willing to work with the Section 8 Housing Program as well. If all of those things fall into place, the HRA pays a housing subsidy directly to the landlord and the renter pays a portion. The portion of the rent subsidy depends on the participant’s income. Typically the Section 8 tenant pays 30 percent of their gross income. The Cloquet Housing Authority would pay the rest within set rent payment standards established by the federal
The waiting list isn’t necessarily first-come, first-served, Moore said, explaining that applicants get points which determine where they fall on the waiting list. For example, people already living in Carlton County get 75 points; veterans who served at least 180 days get 25 points; men or women who have been victims of domestic violence, stalking or dating violence get 25 points. The more points someone gets, the higher that person goes on the waiting list.
The problem with finding places to rent only got worse when Sahlman Courts in Cloquet changed all its units to market rate after paying off a federal Housing and Urban Development loan that had required a certain percentage of the units be low-income. Although that change did bring 50 additional vouchers, that made finding a place to live an even bigger challenge.
“In the last four or five months, I’ve brought on about four new landlords,” Moore said, noting that properties must meet safety and cost standards. “But frankly, I could use another 50 units in Carlton County.”
Moore and HRA Executive Director Debra Shaff said they are hopeful more landlords will come forward when they learn that the HRA Board voted to increase the allowable rents from 105 to 110 percent of what the federal government allows for this region. For example, that means a landlord could charge $600 for a two-bedroom apartment rather than $543.
Although they already held an information session for landlords in Cloquet – which was only attended by a handful of people – they have scheduled a second meeting April 22 at Moose Lake City Hall. Contact Moore at 218-879-3353 for more information.
On the bright side, although the local HRA closed its Section 8 waiting list July 1 when the number of people on the list had gone beyond 300, the number of people waiting is now 170. In large part, however, the decline is due to names being removed from the list because they don’t show up for briefings, not because they’ve used their voucher successfully.