Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Update: Portland Metro Housing Choice Gets Big Boost with HACC and Home Forward Voucher Mobility Pilot.

Update: Home Forward has PR on their website HERE

Home Forward and the Housing Authority of Clackamas County have taken a substantial step to improve housing choice for the 7,500+ HUD housing choice tenant based rental voucher holders in Clackamas and Multnomah counties. 

On June 21st Clackamas County Commissioners authorized the Housing Authority of Clackamas County to enter into a housing voucher mobility pilot MOU with HOME Forward that will begin on July 1. The Board for Home Forward had approved a similar resolution on May 15th.

More background and a version of that MOU can be found in Home Forward YTD Board Packages link HERE in the right pane. (Be patient, the file will take a few moments to view; the MOU is from the May 15th meeting and begins at [current] pdf page 163).   

I would check the Clackamas County Housing Authority and Home Forward websites frequently for updated and complete information about this new cross county effort to improve housing choice. 

My understanding is that, effective for new vouchers issued after July 1 (and for vouchers renewing after Sept 1):
  1. Voucher holders in each county will be able to freely use their vouchers in either county. 
  2. Each county will keep full funding authority for their vouchers, whether used in their county or in the neighboring county. 
  3. The two housing authorities have developed a standardized set of understandings about how inspections, rent determinations, and utility allowances will be determined and who does what. 
  4. The housing authorities will conduct expanded outreach to landlords and tenants to explain how the changes will work.
Clackamas County Payment Standards Moving to Zip Code Level to Better Capture Local Market Conditions. 
As part of this pilot Clackamas County is also adopting changes in their payment standards to move them to the zip code level for the first time (Home Forward already uses zip code level payment standards).

Use of more localized payment standards can make vouchers more attractive to landlords as rents will better reflect local market conditions and can also lead to expanded housing choice and opportunity for voucher holders. 

Lake Oswego and West Linn Receive Biggest Boosts to Housing Payment Standards
Readers will recall the recent Oregonian LOCKED OUT story HERE that detailed very little use of HUD housing vouchers in Lake Oswego and West Linn. 

Zip codes in Lake Oswego and West Linn (97034, 97035, and 97068) will move to 110% of the HUD published Portland Metro area Fair Market Rent, the maximum level the housing authority can approve. The 2 bedroom voucher payment standard in these three zip codes will increase by 10% to $980 from the prior $891 payment standard. 

Payment standards are also increasing from their current level in other Clackamas County zip codes; I do not have details so you will need to check with Housing Authority of CC for details in these other zip codes.

Note that voucher rents for individual units in both counties will continue to be subject to housing authority rent reasonableness determinations; this means that a voucher rent for a specific unit will not automatically be at the new payment standard for that zip code, but will also reflect the competitive features and condition of the unit.

Editorial Comment: This is the most concerted and coordinated effort I have seen to date to improve housing choice for HUD voucher holders in Oregon. 

I applaud the staff and leadership in both housing authorities for doing the detailed grunt work required to think through the coordination of work flow and the standardization of procedures and also to the HA Boards for having the confidence to move beyond "turf issues". 

I hope that robust outreach to landlords and tenants will address some of the concerns that landlords have historically had about the use of vouchers and will expand voucher holder willingness to consider opportunity areas outside of their normal comfort zone. 

While there are likely to be hiccups along the way that require program tweaks, this effort will test:
  1. How willing voucher tenants are to USE the more robust housing choice offered by this pilot.
  2. How willing suburban landlords, especially in Lake Oswego and West Linn, are to USE the largest HUD rental program in Oregon. [The absence of LIHTC projects (who are required to accept voucher holders) may impact this metric].
Originally created and posted on the Oregon Housing Blog.

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