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Was the Iowa City Housing Authority right to halt new applications to the Section 8 housing program?

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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YES

The Iowa City Housing Authority closed the floodgates. It’s about time.

The Housing Authority is no longer accepting applicants for federal housing assistance. The city made a pragmatic choice to cinch the program’s bulbous waist.

The Housing Authority supports 1,214 families with a budget of $5.7 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But, said Housing Authority Administrator Steven Rackis, there are around 2,400 families on the waiting list, some of whom have been waiting two to five years.

I empathize with people who desperately need to land a place to call home. But the cumbersome assistance programs are inadequately managed and are long overdue for restructuring and internal review.

Housing Authority officials should give utmost attention to each individual submission instead of constantly facing a barrage of new applications. Much like a traffic jam, local housing-assistance programs are bottlenecks, with a greater inflow than output. Closing the waiting list — even temporarily — provides city officials adequate time and resources to review current applications and decide how to better regulate programs.

I agree with the Housing Authority’s decision to close the housing-assistance waiting list and hope officials will put measurable effort into restructuring Section 8 and public-housing programs.

— by Michael Dale-Stein

NO

Closing the Section 8 housing list may sound like the only option, but the decision brings with it enormous consequences. The waiting list of approximately 2,400 families is long, but having no list at all shows neither progress toward resolving housing troubles or alternate measures to ignite action.

Iowa City’s Housing Authority prioritizes applicants by first placing the elderly, disabled, and people under 18 years of age. This makes a great deal of sense, and one cannot argue with this system. It provides the most basic care and support for those who cannot produce adequate housing for themselves.

However, in certain circumstances in which those guidelines cannot be reached, the local Housing Authority needs to move on to other qualified applicants. I am not suggesting ignoring the most needy people, only that we move the system along to create space for other people.

Furthermore, what message does this send to potential applicants? They hope for the chance to get nearer to that list; now, with no list at all, their hope is greatly diminished. Housing officials have said they do not want to give applicants a false sense of hope because of the long and protracted weight of finding housing.

We do not want to set these people up for failure and misguided promises. But we are putting them at an even greater disadvantage because the process has stalled.

— by Michael Davis


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