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New Housing Choice Vouchers on hold

High use rate prompts change

SEATTLE—August 28, 2009—As of early August, the Seattle Housing Authority has temporarily suspended giving out new vouchers to people on its waiting list. This move comes as a result of the fact that the Housing Authority is near the upper limit of vouchers it is authorized to issue.

All of the families currently renting with vouchers will continue to receive assistance.

“We regret having to make this change,” said Rental Assistance Director Lisa Cipollone-Wolters, “but the tough economic times we are in mean that we are seeing less turn-over in vouchers.” People renting with vouchers are keeping their vouchers longer and not turning them back. As participants lose jobs or are unable to get better jobs, they need to continue longer in the program.

According to Cipollone-Wolters, the agency will resume issuing vouchers in 2010 if possible.

Many housing authorities across the country have been dealing with this problem. In some of the worst cases, vouchers have been withdrawn from participants who were using them to meet rent payments. Staff at Seattle Housing Authority does not anticipate that this will happen here.

The vouchers that are made available for individuals to use for renting from private landlords are called “tenant-based” vouchers. The Housing Authority also gives out “project-based” vouchers. These go to nonprofit housing organizations that use them to serve low-income people. In these cases, the voucher comes “attached” to the apartment instead of to the tenant. Cipollone-Wolters explained that the Housing Authority expects to continue its support for all issued vouchers.

The Seattle Housing Authority is authorized to give out about 8,500 vouchers. Currently, more than 99 percent of vouchers are in use.