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HUD Vouchers in Santa Monica Increased to Help Needy
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
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Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP


Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

 

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 5, 2012 -- Coping with a crippling shortage of affordable housing, Santa Monica officials finally have some good news, courtesy of the federal government.

HUD vouchers that subsidize most of the cost of rent for the poor are being hiked significantly in the city to help match soaring market rates, said Jim Kemper, the City's housing administrator.

The Section 8 vouchers from the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development had been rendered almost useless because Santa Monica’s market rates had risen so high in the last two years, Kemper said.

“The choices were limited or non-existent,” he told The Lookout Wednesday. “The vouchers weren’t competitive.”

Officials from the Santa Monica Housing Authority learned HUD granted its request for bigger vouchers last month, Kemper said.

About 1,200 Section 8 vouchers are used to subsidize rents in Santa Monica for low-income families and others, including senior citizens. But keeping the vouchers competitive in the city’s hot rental market is an ongoing problem.

Kemper said the City last sought and succeeded in getting the dollar amount of the vouchers increased in 2006, again in reaction to surging monthly rents ("Hopefuls Rush for Low-Income Housing Vouchers," July 25, 2006).

Kemper said the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city is about $1,800, far above the value of Section 8’s monthly housing vouchers of $1,352 for a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica.

HUD is increasing monthly vouchers for studio units to $1,512 from the current $1,009; one-bedroom units to $1,932 from the current $1,352, and two bedrooms to $2,640 from $1,843 now.

Apartments with three bedrooms or more jumped to $3,366 from $2,411 currently.

“Even for older apartment buildings, you can’t find a one-bedroom for $1,352,” Kemper said.

Santa Monica has been under pressure for years from advocates for the needy to improve conditions for low-income residents, including working toward securing bigger Section 8 vouchers and adding protections so landlords can’t discriminate against those trying to use the subsidies ("New Santa Monica Law to Prohibit Discrimination Against Section 8 Tenants," May 8, 2015).

Santa Monica has far more people applying for Section 8 vouchers than HUD’s funding can accommodate. The city’s waiting list has more than 20,000 names, Kemper said. About 2,000 get priority because they either live or work in the city, he said.

The City Council recently approved the HOUSE (Housing Opportunities Utilizing Subsidy Enhancements) program that, in part, offers $5,000 bonuses to owners when a vacant, rent-controlled apartment is leased to tenants with vouchers, City officials said.

HOUSE provides funding for 45 signing bonuses, officials said. Landlords will be notified of them next month.

Section 8 is the federal government’s largest program for helping low-income families, seniors and the disabled to get housing in the private market. It provides guaranteed rental payments to landlords and, in Santa Monica, is operated directly by the City's Housing Authority.

Under Section 8, renters pay as much as 40 percent of their income for rent and related costs, with the vouchers covering the rest. Voucher amounts vary based on where they are used. Those used in Santa Monica are somewhat higher in dollar value than elsewhere in Los Angeles County because rents are higher.

Kemper said the City was helped in winning the increased Section 8 voucher amounts by U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Santa Monica’s city council members and the Santa Monica Housing Commission.


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