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Seattle Housing awarded 100 special-purpose housing vouchers

Most vouchers for families who are separated, near-separated from children due to inadequate housing

SEATTLE — August 10, 2010 — Last week, Seattle Housing Authority received notice that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has granted its request for 100 Family Unification Program (FUP) Housing Choice vouchers, worth $1,045,308. Twenty of these vouchers are earmarked for young adults who are aging out of the foster care system and who may face homelessness.  The other 80 will be made available to families whose inadequate housing is the primary cause of separation or near-separation from their children.

According to the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, as many as 30 percent of children in foster care could be reunited with their parents if safe, affordable housing were available.

The Family Unification Program (FUP) is designed to prevent children from entering foster care unnecessarily as a result of their family's housing problems. Its vouchers allow families to reunite with children who are otherwise unable to leave foster care because of their parents' inability to obtain safe, decent housing.

"The foster care system is an important safety net for children when there's no alternative, but not having the means to obtain affordable housing is hardly a good reason for families to be divided," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan in announcing the award of FUP vouchers to Seattle Housing Authority and other public housing authorities across the country."Thankfully these vouchers will keep thousands of families together under one roof."

HUD is making 2,543 FUP vouchers available to housing authorities across the country.

According to program manager Corinne McKisson, “This FUP award is significant for the housing authority because our waitlist is closed, and our public housing waits are years long. These vouchers provide the opportunity for us to work with partner agencies. Young people and families can access these opportunities directly through the agencies they are receiving services from. It opens a door for them that would otherwise remain closed.”

FUP vouchers are provided to housing authorities that work closely with local child welfare agencies to identify families with children in foster care or who are at risk of being placed in foster care and to identify youth at risk of homelessness.  

In Seattle, eligibility for the program will be determined by Seattle Housing Authority in tandem with the state Children’s Administration (formerly the Department of Children’s and Family Services), which will screen and refer potential participants.

First Place, New Beginnings, Public Health – Seattle & King County, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, and Youth Care will provide supportive services to participating families and youth, services designed to help assisted families achieve stability and a measure of security.

In order to qualify as a FUP-suitable youth, an individual must be between the ages of 18-21, must have been in foster care on or beyond their 16th birthday, and must currently lack adequate housing. (Lack of adequate housing includes living in substandard or dilapidated housing, being homeless, displaced by domestic violence, living in an overcrowded unit, or living in housing not accessible due to the nature of a disability.) Housing assistance provided to youth in this program is limited to a duration not to exceed 18 months.

FUP-suitable families, which will also be referred to Seattle Housing by the Children’s Administration , are those where a lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in the imminent placement of the family’s child (or children) in out-of-home care, or the delay of discharge of a child (or children) to the family from out-of-home care. Seattle Housing Authority will determined the family’s eligibility for a Housing Choice Voucher. Housing assistance provided to eligible families in the program is not time-limited.

FUP participants will receive a Housing Choice voucher from Seattle Housing Authority. This voucher will allow the participant (individual or family) to rent a home in the City of Seattle from any landlord. Participants pay between 30 percent and 40 percent of their monthly adjusted income toward rent; the balance is paid by Seattle Housing Authority with funds provided by HUD

The separation of families due solely to a lack of safe, decent, affordable housing is costly in both human and financial terms.

According to the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, the average annual cost of providing foster care for one family's children is $56,892. By contrast, it costs approximately $13,193 a year to provide rental assistance and supportive services for that same family. Since FUP provides affordable housing to this targeted population, it's estimated that the total yearly savings to the foster care system is more than $142 million. Cost savings are also considerable for young people aging out of foster care. The average annual FUP costs for young adults is $5,600 – a tenth of the estimated costs associated with homelessness, incarceration, and residential treatment.

Since 1992, FUP has provided over 39,000 vouchers. In 2000, the program was extended to provide time-limited Housing Choice vouchers to youth aging out of the foster care system.