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Housing Authority gets 156 new housing vouchers for vulnerable residents 

San Luis Obispo County recently received 156 new emergency housing vouchers as part of the American Rescue Plan—subsidies similar to Section 8 that are designed to rapidly house residents experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

The local vouchers all went to the Housing Authority of SLO (HASLO), which will work with clients referred by local service agencies like CAPSLO, 5Cities Homeless Coalition, Salvation Army, and others to find permanent housing.

HASLO is calling the new program, "Welcome Home."

"It's a great program. We're trying to get it out fast," said Scott Smith, executive director at HASLO. "[156 vouchers] is probably double what we thought we might get."

click to enlarge NEW VOUCHERS The Housing Authority of SLO recently received dozens of new housing vouchers, similar to Section 8, that will aid residents facing homelessness. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • NEW VOUCHERS The Housing Authority of SLO recently received dozens of new housing vouchers, similar to Section 8, that will aid residents facing homelessness.

The vouchers function almost identically to Section 8—but provide even higher rent payments and offer other incentives for landlords. Tenants are asked to pay 30 percent of their income to rent, while the subsidy covers the rest.

Like Section 8, the vouchers last as long as they're needed. The federal program created by the Rescue Plan expires in nine years, but the funding is expected to continue, HASLO said.

HASLO launched Welcome Home this month, and it's been assisting clients of all varieties—young, old, families, couples, and single people. Senior citizens are in particular need of affordable housing.

"The highest growing vulnerable population right now in our county are seniors, who are getting priced out of the market," said Elaine Archer, HASLO's housing management director. "Their income is fixed and housing prices are increasing."

HASLO is striving to grow its network of about 600 landlords who participate in Section 8 with the arrival of Welcome Home. The new voucher pays about 10 percent more in rent than Section 8 does in the case of a one-bedroom apartment. It also provides funding for landlord signing bonuses and damage guarantees.

"I think a lot of landlords are uncertain about what it means to be a Section 8 landlord," Archer said. "HASLO is a great agency to work with. We're really responsive."

"Landlords are our friends and our customers, and we need them to make everything we do successful," Smith added.

Housing vouchers are in extremely high demand in SLO County. HASLO administers between 2,400 and 2,500 Section 8 vouchers, and there is a long waiting list for them. HASLO hopes that the Welcome Home vouchers will be just as well utilized.

"If we can use these, and get a high utilization, there's a great chance we'll get more," Smith said. Δ

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