Two-year wait for Section 8 voucher

Around 900 Section 8 vouchers providing a federal subsidy to pay for housing are given to families and individuals in Chautauqua County.

Josiah Lamp, Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. housing and community development director, said if a family or an individual qualifies for the program, it is a first come, first serve with a two year waiting list.

“We have such a large need in the county,” he said.

Lamp said Chautauqua Opportunities, which is the county administrator for the federal program, has regular signups in both its Jamestown and Dunkirk offices. In Jamestown, signups are the third Wednesday of each month from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. at the Laughlin Community Action Center, located at 402 Chandler St. In Dunkirk, sign ups are the last Friday each month from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. at Connections North, located at 10825 Bennett Road.

“We welcome folks to walk-in on those days or to call in and in some situations we can accommodate you over the phone,” he said.

People receiving Section 8 vouchers live throughout the county, Lamp said. However, the residence must meet U.S. Housing and Urban Development standards, which requires Chautauqua Opportunities officials to inspect the rental before approving the place.

“They live in cities, villages and small communities,” he said. “The goal of Section 8 when it was instituted back in the 70s was to increase access to affordable housing for renters. Many were living in public housing that didn’t have the same access to quality schools and neighborhoods, but this allows people to live wherever they choose so lower income families can improve their situation and ultimately be self-sufficient.”

The qualifications for Section 8 is based on HUD’s area median income. To qualify, you have to make 50 percent less than the area median income. The actual dollar figure varies depending on the size of each family.

If you qualify, Lamp said the goal is for each household to pay less than 30 percent of its income toward housing.

“We partner with private landlords and they are important for our program,” Lamp said. “Generally, (the funding) goes straight to the landlord. They receive (funding) from the tenants and the program.”

Lamp said Chautauqua Opportunities has a couple programs for people receiving a Section 8 voucher to help them become self-sufficient. One is a home ownership program where families can convert their voucher toward owning a home. Another program is when funding from the voucher is set aside in increments that can then be used toward a down payment toward a house or to purchase a vehicle.

“About two-thirds of the people who receive Section 8 are elderly or disabled,” Lamp said. “The other one-third is an opportunity to find stable housing. Some people are homeless, but afterward they can work toward self-sufficiency.”

Lamp said most of the large apartment units in the county are project-based Section 8 housing, which receives a different federal subsidy through the low-income housing tax credit program.

“For example, Appleyard (Terrace Apartments) in Jamestown there is a small number that are Section 8 vouchers and the rest are not, but are income limited based on the low-income housing tax credit program qualification standards.”

Lamp said landlords use the same screening procedures for people who receive a Section 8 voucher that they would for any other tenant.

“It is (the landlord’s) prerogative,” he said. “(The landlord) has to make sure they are comfortable selecting the tenant.”

For more information on the Section 8 program, visit chautauquaopportunities.com.

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