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County Housing Authority seeks rental housing

Carlton County is looking for a few good houses (or apartments, as the case may be). With an ever-increasing need for low income rental housing in the county, the Cloquet/Carlton County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is seeking owners ...

Carlton County is looking for a few good houses (or apartments, as the case may be).

With an ever-increasing need for low income rental housing in the county, the Cloquet/Carlton County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is seeking owners willing to consider renting to income-eligible residents holding approved vouchers to help pay their rent.

According to Caroline Chapin, Section 8 rent assistance coordinator for the Housing Authority, the number of prospective renters holding assistance vouchers currently outweighs the number of units available to them.

"Right now, we have 24 vouchers issued to people who are currently out looking for housing," related Chapin. "They're having a difficult time finding units, and the waiting list is growing."

Chapin said she hopes to be able to better inform rental property owners and/or managers about the benefits of participating in the Section 8 program and offer any information that they might need before they make that decision.

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She explained that a qualified low income participant in the Section 8 program is granted a voucher to assist with covering the cost of their rent. The housing authority's payment standard is based on how many bedrooms there are in a particular unit. For example, with an efficiency unit with no bedrooms, the payment standard is an overall rent of $356 a month.

The housing authority has a limit to how much it is authorized to contribute toward rent, based on the resident's income, so the amount will vary. While the voucher from the HRA is limited at no more than 30 percent of the overall rent of the unit, the resident is allowed to pay up to 40 percent of his or her income toward the rental cost of a particular unit.

"If there's a difference left over, then we cannot approve having the resident lease that property," said Chapin. "It keeps things within reasonable limits. HUD feels if someone pays more than 40 percent [of their income on rent], then they're getting in over their heads, and in the long run it's not a help but a hindrance because that family could end up having financial difficulties covering their rent obligation."

Chapin said the current plan replaces the long-running Section 8 Certificate Program, which would not allow a resident to pay more than 30 percent of the cost of the rent, eliminating a lot of the rental housing in the area from eligibility.

If a prospective tenant receives a rental voucher from HRA, he or she then goes out into the community to find a place to rent. The owner of that property, or the property manager authorized to make rental decisions, then completes an "approval of tenancy" form if they are willing to participate. brings the completed form back to Chapin and she, in turn, contacts the owner of the rental property in order to go over the information provided, such as the amount of rent, when the unit was built, when it will be available for an inspection and when it will be available for occupancy.

If the rental meets the requirements of the program, Chapin said she sets up a housing quality inspection where she does an on-site inspection. If it passes, and the rent fits within the guidelines, she and the property owner/manager can set up a lease to put that resident in that unit.

"If owners want to call in ahead of time to indicate a willingness to take part," said Chapin, "I can then call whatever potential renters we have in the program who are out there looking for a place to live and direct them to that property. If they like it, and the owner decides to rent to them, then they go through the process described."

She said eligible individuals or families receive a voucher that covers a portion of the rent, which remains in place as long as the resident lives in an approved rental, remains income-eligible for the program and abides by the terms of the lease as laid out by the owner.

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"If the owner is having problems with the resident, the owner has the right to enforce his lease with the tenant," clarified Chapin. "The Housing Authority has a contract with the owner which says we will pay a portion of the rent as long as the resident lives there. If the owner has to terminate the lease, then our contract terminates."

The HRA also maintains a separate contract with the program participants for the vouchers, so there are actually two contracts in place simultaneously.

This week, Chapin held an informational meeting to try to get new owners involved in the program and give rental property owners currently participating in the program more information on how it works.

"I think there are some myths out there, or sometimes participants don't have all of the information they need," said Chapin, "so some owners are leery of the Section 8 program. They wonder if it's going to take their rights away or if they have to sign all sorts of paperwork. I'm trying to be a myth buster. Once most rental property owners are in the program and have had a good experience with it, they're apt to continue with it."

Chapin said the county currently has 98 families participating on rent vouchers, with an approved total of 105 vouchers that can be issued at any one time. She said she is hopeful that more property owners will express a willingness to participate in the program.

"I make it as easy as I possibly can for them and answer whatever questions they have," she summed up.

For more information, call Chapin at 218-879-3353 or e-mail her at: cloquethousingau@qwest.net .

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