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Housing Authority reopens waiting list

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | MARCH 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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The waiting list for Iowa City's Housing Choice Voucher program reopened a few months ago, and it has since taken on roughly 600 applicants.

Officials announced the number as a part of the Housing Authority's annual report to the Iowa City City Council on Tuesday.

Steven Rackis, the city's Housing Authority administrator, presented the annual report of the Housing Authority's plan for fiscal 2012, and said the majority of applicants are elderly or disabled.

"There are a lot of people who need assistance," said Councilor Susan Mims after the meeting, and the program will continue support those who need it.

The waiting list reopened Feb. 9, 13 months after its controversial closing in January 2010 for Section 8 housing. City officials closed the list after it had exceeded 2,400 families and created a two-year waiting period.

They said keeping the list open gave families "false hope" for assistance they might not have been able to receive. Officials attributed the rise in the applications to the 2008 flood, which displaced many local families.

Last year, the city provided 1,214 vouchers on a budget of $5.7 million, and that will remain the same this year, Rackis said.

Funding for the section Housing Choice Voucher and public housing programs is provided by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department to provide assistance to low-income families interested in renting homes. Landlords of the homes receive the federal allowance directly from the city's Housing Authority.

Before the list was reopened, Rackis said roughly 300 applicants were taken off the waiting list to be evaluated to receive housing. Since the waiting list has reopened, the city has received roughly 600 more applications, Rackis said.

An application takes roughly 30 to 90 days to be processed, and the waiting list would only be closed again if the waiting list exceeded the two-year wait again.

Rackis told councilors Tuesday the elderly or disabled make up roughly 70 percent of the Iowa City Housing Authority participants.

The council also approved local real-estate company Blank and McCune to assist the city with selling the remaining two of 10 housing units. The city approached the company a few weeks ago, and it was willing to help them out, said Alan Swanson of Blank and McCune.

Using a real-estate company will broaden the range of potential buyers, Rackis said. When the city sells the units, it can run into restrictions depending on the family's income.

The real-estate company will help the city by advertising the units on the roughly 55 websites the company works with.

"It's a way we can provide something to the city," Swanson said. "We want everyone to be able to find a place to live."


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