Housing program expands

Published 9:03 pm Monday, November 16, 2015

The Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority is expanding its Housing Choice Voucher Program after several years of penny-pinching left it with a surplus of money for the program.

In the past month, it has moved nearly 200 people off its 7,000-person-long waiting list for the program, Executive Director Clarissa McAdoo said.

“It’s good that we had a full waiting list and we had money,” McAdoo said, adding the amount of money available for the program has increased from about $4 million to $7 million over the years.

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During federal budget cuts, the agency had reduced staff hours and reviewed the size of homes families were in, forcing families to move if they no longer needed the number of bedrooms where they were living.

“People were upset because we were being very tedious about looking at where our money was going so we could reduce our financial footprint and still maintain housing for individuals,” McAdoo said.

The agency also was not re-issuing vouchers when they were turned in, either because the people no longer needed assistance or because they had violated the terms of the program.

But now the program is at a point where it can expand again, McAdoo said.

“We are doing briefings to connect those individuals who have been on that waiting list to those vouchers,” she said.

The program is a three-way partnership between the housing authority, the tenant and a landlord. The authority approves tenants for assistance, while the landlord agrees to accept what the authority deems a reasonable amount of rent, based on the market, the size of the home and other factors.

Tenants must pay what they are able toward their rent and meet other conditions of the program, McAdoo said.

In expanding the number of tenants receiving vouchers, the program also must expand the number of properties eligible to be occupied by those receiving assistance, McAdoo said.

“As we continue to lease up until we meet the money level, we want to make sure the individuals that are holding a voucher in hand are able to match that with a unit that’s appropriate for their family,” McAdoo said. “We’re seeking new landlords given the fact that we are creating a new effort of expanding housing opportunity.”

The Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority also administers the voucher program for Isle of Wight County in partnership with Franklin, as the county decided not to administer the program any longer, McAdoo said.

In addition, the agency cooperates with authorities in other jurisdictions to “port” residents from place to place. Someone who has lived in Suffolk for a year with a voucher, for instance, could move to Norfolk under the same voucher. Likewise, someone in Chesapeake could move to Suffolk.

“We have situations where we’re on that end,” McAdoo said. “People are coming to Suffolk to live.”

McAdoo said no local resources are devoted to the program; only federal money supports it.

The authority also has recently received approval to administer the Veterans Administration Supportive Housing voucher, which assists veterans in Suffolk, Isle of Wight County, York County and Surry County.