Housing, Funding Is Needed To Ensure Less Waiting For Vouchers

There is a Catch-22 when it comes to affordable housing in the Jamestown area — there aren’t enough properties for those using the Housing Choice Voucher Program, as the Section 8 federal housing program is more commonly known.

It was an eye-opener to hear Josiah Lamp, Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. housing and community development director, tell The Post-Journal that there is a two-year waiting list for the Section 8 program. Unlike some areas of the country with such waiting lists that serve thousands of people, Chautauqua County’s program only serves about 900 people. Compared to bigger cities, the two-year wait for Jamestown’s program is a lot shorter than most.

The Section 8 program is designed to prevent the construction of public housing buildings by allowing those who receive rent subsidies to live wherever they choose. Landlords follow the same screening process they typically follow, receiving a subsidy check from the federal government to augment what they receive from program participants, most of whom are elderly or disabled.

It isn’t known if the problem is an increase in the number of people who need assistance, a problem getting enough properties to meet the federal government’s occupancy standards for the Section 8 program, lack of federal funding or a combination of those factors. We do know, though, from past history that Jamestown residents are pretty strongly against the idea of building new subsidized housing buildings in existing neighborhoods. That means Section 8 housing will have to play a role in ensuring those who need help securing safe, affordable housing needs to be part of the housing mix in Jamestown.

Much of the discussion of Jamestown’s housing focuses on increasing housing values, the need to remove lead paint from homes and code enforcement. The public discussion needs to include making sure there is enough housing or enough funding to end the lengthy wait for the federal housing voucher program, too.

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