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Thu, Oct. 17

Homeless issues revive housing authority debate

PRESCOTT - A local housing authority able to secure federal funds for rental subsidies and permanent supportive housing is a must for leaders to better manage homelessness in this region, according to VA officials and other community social service providers.

"Everyone who calls us is asking us for housing," said Coalition for Compassion and Justice Executive Director Paul Mitchell.

For more than a decade, CCJ has been one of the leaders of a local agency coalition exploring the organization of a locally-operated housing authority, Mitchell said. Progress has been slow because it will require a significant financial investment from all involved, including governmental entities, he said.

In the last year, the conversation by those immersed in caring for the homeless, or those who are at-risk for homelessness on a daily basis, has been reinvigorated because they recognize "something has to be done," Mitchell said.

"We think there are opportunities for federal funds for support that (the state Department of Housing) has not taken advantage of," Mitchell said. "If we can get more Section 8 vouchers, more people can access housing."

At this time, the Arizona Department of Housing operates as the Yavapai County Housing Authority. The state's federal Section 8 housing waiting list for its allotment of 89 housing vouchers is closed and has been for about three years.

For those who work with the homeless on a day-to-day basis, veteran and non-veteran alike, the perception is that efforts to curry federal housing grants have not been aggressive enough, Mitchell said.

"A housing authority won't be a panacea," Mitchell said, noting limits on the federally allotted $100 million in subsidies is an issue affecting cities and towns across the nation. "But it would be a piece of the continuum of care. Without having one, we are missing a piece."

Housing choice vouchers enable low-income families to spend no more than 30 percent of their income on privately-owned rentals in the areas where they choose to live. The maximum income for a family of four is $36,100.

In addition to housing choice vouchers, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development also provides funds for project-based rental assistance and homeownership programs.

Prescott Mayor Harry Oberg said he intends to participate in upcoming coalition conversations as they are an "opportunity to see where the city can help."

"We're working our butts off to find creative ways to find affordable housing," Mitchell said.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041 or 928-642-6809.

Public hearing

On March 9, the Arizona Department of Housing will have a 3 p.m. public hearing at the Yavapai County Public Administration Building on Fair Street related to the Public Housing Authority's 2016 housing choice voucher program. A copy of the plan can be viewed on the website: h.

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