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Seattle Housing awarded 100 special-purpose housing vouchers

Grants will keep children out of foster care, young adults from homelessness

SEATTLE — June 3, 2011 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week that it has awarded Seattle Housing Authority 100 Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers. HUD awarded Seattle Housing the same number of these special vouchers last August.

FUP funding allows local public housing authorities to work closely with local child welfare agencies to identify families with children who are at risk of being placed in foster care or youth at risk of homelessness. These vouchers, like HUD's Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers, allow families and youths to rent housing from private landlords and generally pay 30 percent of their monthly income toward rent and utilities.

The FUP vouchers are available for families whose inadequate housing is the primary factor in separation or near-separation from their children. In addition, FUP vouchers will provide stable housing for young adults, ages 18-21, who left or are aging out of the foster care system, preventing them from becoming homeless.

According to Lisa Wolters, Seattle Housing's director of housing advocacy and rental assistance programs, the award of the special vouchers is cause for celebration.

"At a time when our waitlist remains closed and our resources are stretched, these vouchers allow us to have a meaningful impact providing affordable housing to families that are struggling to remain intact and to youth who are leaving foster care and at risk of becoming homeless," Wolters said.

Wolters said she and her staff look forwarding to working with the the three agencies that will refer people to Seattle Housing for FUP vouchers: the state's Children's Administration, Public Health -  Seattle & King County, and Seattle's Downtown YMCA. Those three agencies will also continue to provide services to the families and youth whose housing will be subsidized by these vouchers.

"It's heartbreaking to realize that thousands of children live in foster care or are forced to live with other families simply because their parents can't afford a home," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "The funding provided today will keep thousands of families together under one roof."

"At risk-families face even greater risks when they are separated," said HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride. "By reuniting them, we improve their prospects for meeting all the other challenges they face."

HUD also announced the award of 99 additional special vouchers to other Washington State housing authorities: Clallam County Housing Authority, King County Housing Authority, and Snohomish County Housing Authority. The award to Seattle Housing was $625,944 of a statewide total of $1,443,733.

According to a 2010 report by the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, it costs the federal government approximately $56,892 annually per family to place children into foster care. Yet the cost to provide housing and supportive services to one family averages less than $14,000 annually. Through this investment in FUP to reunify families who are separated due to housing problems, HUD will reunite nearly 3,500 children with their parents, thus saving $74 million in annual foster care expenditures. Cost savings are also considerable for young people aging out of foster care. The average annual cost of a FUP voucher for young adults is $5,600 – a tenth of the estimated costs associated with undesirable outcomes such as homelessness, incarceration and residential treatment.