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Federal Aid Dries Up for Some OR Renters

June 9, 2009

Tillamook, OR - Oregon's homeless rate has increased at least 35 percent in the past year, and now Oregon families who depend on federal Section 8 vouchers to pay their rent are wondering if they'll continue to receive them, or be among the homeless – and with good reason. Last week, the Housing Authority for Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties told 285 families that their rental assistance will end as of July 1. It's a combination of factors, from less federal money and Section 8 rule changes by the past administration, to a local Housing Authority that didn't budget for the economic downturn.

Michael Anderson, executive director of the Oregon Opportunity Network, says the result is a housing emergency.

"And what we see is the perfect storm – the federal policies have reduced funds, and then, mismanagement by the Housing Authority led to a rapid time period where these people's housing assistance will be lost."

Erin Skaar, excutive director of CARE Inc., a nonprofit group that serves Tillamook County, says these renters also have more to worry about than where they're going to live next month.

"The other thing that's terrifying is; what happens to these folks in terms of their rental history, and how that affects them into the future, so that, when the economy turns back around, when they get a Section 8 voucher back again, if that's the case, that someone will rent to them."

The Northwest Oregon Housing Authority says its counterparts in several other areas of the state are having similar problems, and that its budget was based on the previous year’s figures. For those whose vouchers were eliminated, finding new affordable housing won't be easy. Advocacy groups are asking the federal HUD to step in and help with the Section 8 shortfall.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR