CHESTER — The Chester Housing Authority announced this week it has received its first increase in federal housing vouchers since 2002. The 25 Housing Choice Vouchers, provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are earmarked for non-elderly disabled applicants.
The increase brings HUD vouchers administered by CHA to a total of 1,591 households."We've been through years of cutbacks; not having the ability to increase the supply of affordable housing," said CHA Executive Director Steven Fischer. "There was a rare opportunity and we went for it. We were one of the 12 percent of the housing authorities in the country who got this.
"The 25 Housing Choice Vouchers, popularly known as Section 8 after its section of the federal Housing Act of 1937, are open to households with any disabled resident. "We're first going to go to the approximate 500 families on our waiting list and determine if 25 of them qualify for this," said Fischer. Qualifying households will receive housing through a private landlord and pay what is deemed affordable for their income (generally 30 percent of income).
CHA, as administer of the voucher funding, will then pay the balance of fair-market rent to the landlord."The CHA will be responsible for managing the waiting list, determining eligibility, issuing the voucher, and calculating reasonable rents," CHA Housing Choice Voucher Program Director Mary Militello said in a written statement.
"Our team looks forward to providing affordable housing opportunities as part of a coordinated Move-On Strategy with Delaware County to assist eligible persons who previously experienced homelessness and currently are a client in a permanent supportive housing or rapid rehousing project."U.S. Census data for Chester shows 1,365 disabled renter households classified as "rent burdened," defined as paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent, according to a CHA release.
The release states CHA has reached out to its network of property owners to make them aware of the need for apartments or houses that are accessible to disabled individuals.Fischer estimated CHA contracts with hundreds of landlords. "They're aware of (voucher expansion). They're happy to hear we got this and they're going to be as accommodating as they can be with the properties they have," he said. All landlords under contract must comply with standards of accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act for applicable voucher tenants, according to Fischer.
"We're coming off our 12th year in a row of being rated a 'high performer' by HUD," said Fischer. "What that translates to in the voucher program is that we have very strict standards for landlords in order for them to remain in the program," he said. "(Property owners) vary from 'mom and pops' that might have an apartment or two that they rent out to some that… it's their full time occupation. Everyone's subject to the same standards."According to a CHA release, the Delaware County Property Investors group (DPI) supports the initiative.
"With a 35 percent poverty rate, the CHA's housing programs play an important role in mitigating risk for the real estate investors and creating stability for the households we serve," DPI Vice President Jeff Mattero said in a written statement. "We are encouraged by the opportunity to address the housing affordability needs for persons with disabilities. Through our outreach efforts we hope to increase the number of quality, standard units as well as ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant units in our community."