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De-concentrating poverty: HUD rent assistance lands in every quadrant of the city and beyond

In City Hall on March 27, 2008 at 5:13 pm

“De-concentration” is the word for it.

That’s been the philosophy for some years now in the way the federal government wants to see its Section 8 rent-assistance housing vouchers for low-income residents used in metro areas like Cedar Rapids, Scott Seibert, the city’s leased housing supervisor, explained to the City Council at its meeting Wednesday evening.

Seibert was giving the council an annual update on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s voucher program.

De-concentration, he explained, permits the renter to select a rental property of his or her choosing where she or he might want to live or need to live to be close to a job, family, shopping or friends.

In the current year, the city has the ability to hand out a total of 1,265 vouchers to families in the city’s jurisdiction area, which encompasses Linn and Benton counties. Currently, 1,197 of the vouchers are in use, a number which Seibert said is a moving one because of people leaving and entering the program.

Of those in the program, 383 are using vouchers to rent properties in southwest Cedar Rapids; 322, in northeast Cedar Rapids; 184 in southeast Cedar Rapids; 96 in northwest Cedar Rapids; and 127 in Marion.

Vouchers also are used by people residing in some small towns in Linn and Benton counties, including Walker, Center Point, Vinton and Van Horne, Seibert added.

Among other voucher statistics: 86 percent of the households have a female as the head of household; 49 percent involve a person with a disability; and 80 percent have a household income of $15,000 or less a year.

The total number of vouchers in the Cedar Rapids area has remained fairly constant, and Seibert said he doesn’t anticipate that changing. Those on the waiting list would like to see more vouchers, he said.

 A correlation exists between families in the Section 8 program and the positive student achievement of their children, Seibert told the council.

He noted that the private property owners who rent to those with vouchers have a responsibility to screen tenants while the tenants have the responsibility to refrain from drug activity and violent criminal behavior. The city inspects properties that rent to those with vouchers once a year.

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