Housing authority may give preference to those with jobs

DANVILLE — The Danville Housing Authority is considering rewarding those who work more than 20 hours a week by granting them a preference when applying for the agency's Section 8 program.

The authority already has three preferences — one for residents who live, work or go to school in Vermilion County, another for military veterans and another for those displaced by a disaster, like a fire or tornado.

Now, it's considering adding two more preferences — one for applicants who can verify that they are working 20 or more hours a week and another for local homeless individuals and families referred by local partner agencies, like Crosspoint Human Services.

The Section 8 program gives a person a voucher to find housing authority-approved rental housing in the private market, and then DHA subsidizes the monthly rent to the landlord based on the household's income.

Greg Hilleary, executive director of the housing authority, said the local Section 8 wait list has been closed for a year and a half, although the authority is continuing to house people in the program, pulling applicants from its long waiting list. Basically, preferences push an applicant's name closer to the top of the waiting list.

Thom Pollock, executive director of Crosspoint, said clients being served in his agency's programs, like women at the shelter at Your Family Resource Center in downtown Danville, know that the wait list is closed and that's not an option for them in trying to transition back into housing. Pollock said in addition to some at the shelter having few resources of their own, there can be many other hurdles to theier finding permanent housing.

Pollock said giving these homeless women, and their families, a preference for the Section 8 program "is absolutely spectacular." Pollock said Crosspoint also has received a small grant for supportive services for homeless veterans, so the existing veteran preference and a new homeless preference will also aide veterans they serve in that program.

"Then we will provide supportive services to the veterans and their families. There's no limit to the support. Whatever it takes to keep them in their homes, we will do it. We will try to stress employment, if that's possible, so they can be self-sufficient, but sometimes it takes awhile," he said.

Hilleary said it was an internal decision to propose a work preference.

Hilleary said families with some source of income are more likely to remain housed and not be ousted from the program for non-payment of their portion of rent. According to the proposal to the housing authority's board, which will consider the two new preferences at their meeting Thursday, the working preference encourages able-bodied people who are not currently working to take some responsibility for their own care and support and start working, and it also rewards already-working families.

Hilleary said the housing authority does not want to penalize disabled people who cannot work, however, so the preference will also be given to those applicants whose disability precludes them from working.

Hilleary said years ago, the housing authority had a preference for applicants who are working, but it was eliminated. He said that was at a time when the authority had many preferences, about 10, and that was too many and they were difficult to manage, partly because some the authority was unable to verify.

This would give the agency five preferences that are not difficult to verify, he said. And in the future, the authority may consider extending them to its public-housing units, which are apartment complexes owned by the authority, including Fair Oaks.

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vcponsardin wrote on September 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Excellent thinking.  So the people most vulnerable and most likely to need help with housing--the unemployed--will be the least likely to get help from an agency designed to help people...  Clever.