Management of Section 8 vouchers may go to county

Rent-assistance program underused in city

March 31, 2003|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Faced with a shortage of rental units and an inefficient administrative system, the Annapolis Housing Authority is considering transferring the management of its Section 8 rental vouchers to Anne Arundel County's housing authority.

The city authority has had difficulty getting its vouchers used - particularly because of the high price and scarcity of participating rental units in Annapolis. Last spring the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development threatened to take away the federal rent subsidies unless participation improved.

Trudy McFall, chairwoman of the authority's board, said the city program is mired in "inefficiency."

The waiting list for the vouchers - which pay the difference between the HUD-approved rent and 30 percent of a tenant's adjusted household income - is 1,021 names long, and many of the subsidies are never used.

"All these people are on the wait list, all these people get briefed and get vouchers and very few get housing," McFall said. "The goal is not to churn them through lists and give them vouchers they cannot utilize."

Last year, the city housing authority issued 322 vouchers, but just 34 were used. Of those, 26 were used in Annapolis.

Residents can use the vouchers in other jurisdictions, but that process is cumbersome, officials say. Combining the city's program with the county's would eliminate those barriers, allowing residents to look more easily in Anne Arundel or Annapolis for housing.

"We intend for it to be a much smoother process for everyone concerned," said Larry Loyd, executive director of the Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County, who noted that combining the programs might help to recruit landlords who own properties in both jurisdictions.

The county is allowed 1,700 vouchers, with 92 percent of those currently in use, Loyd said. He said he expects the unused vouchers - available because the county recently got a new allotment from the federal government - to be used within the next few months.

The county waiting list also is long, with 4,200 names. But Loyd said that if the county authority takes over the Annapolis program, it would maintain the separate Annapolis waiting list, so that those individuals do not lose their ranking for eligibility in the program.

The commission would allow residents to apply to the program in Annapolis or online so they would not have to travel to the county housing commission office in Glen Burnie.

The cost to administer the additional vouchers would be covered by the fees that HUD pays per used voucher, HUD said.

Loyd will discuss the combined program at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Eastport Volunteer Fire Department, Jefferson Street and Bay Ridge Avenue in Annapolis.

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