[Hpn] Homeless To Homeowner

William C. Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 10 Jul 2005 07:55:13 -0400

July 10, 2005

Homeless to Homeowner

By Amanda Van Benschoten
The Sunday Challenger

Boone Program Aids Transition

BURLINGTON - Approximately 900 families receive housing assistance through
Boone County's Assisted Housing Department (AHD), and 350 more are on a
waiting list. The department cut nearly 80 families from the program in
January after a 5 percent cut in its federal funding.

Boone's AHD receives $4.4 million annually from the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The funds help indigent families pay
rent through the Section 8 voucher program.

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A four-member family that earns 50 percent or less of the local median
household income is defined as "very low income." Families that earn 80
percent or less of the local median household income are "low income." These
two groups are eligible for HUD assistance.

The AHD gives the family a housing voucher, with which they find a suitable
home or apartment to rent. After the AHD inspects the home or apartment, it
negotiates a rent agreement with the family. Typically, the family agrees to
pay 30 to 40 percent of its income toward rent, and the AHD uses HUD funds
to make up the difference each month. Individual rent agreements vary
according to the family's financial situation. Rents in Boone County are
also a little more expensive than in other parts of NKY.

"There are many folks who don't pay 30 percent because their income is so
low that it would be devastating," said Kirk Kavanaugh, director of Human
Services in Boone County.

"Out of the System"

Unlike Campbell and Kenton counties, Boone has no public housing, or
"projects." Section 8 housing is spread throughout the county, in rural and
urban areas, in all cities.

"They're scattered throughout," Kavanaugh said. "We don't have public
housing owned by the county."

Instead, the county works with more than 90 landlords to provide Section 8
housing for the 900 families in the program. The AHD has strict
requirements: applicants must meet financial criteria, fill out an
application and undergo an interview process before being approved. In
addition, applicants with a drug or criminal history are rejected.

The AHD is working with the Brighton Center to help Section 8 housing
tenants become homeowners. About 30 families are enrolled in a "Family
Self-Sufficiency Program," in which a counselor helps them set and meet
financial goals to become financially independent and fiscally responsible.

The Newport-based Brighton Center employs one full-time person in its
Burlington office who works solely on self-sufficiency and job-education

Executive Director Robert Brewster said he believes that poverty is an
economic issue, and the first step is to help the poor find permanent,
affordable housing and learn the necessary skills to get-and keep-a job.

"The county's working very closely with us to provide the future services
they will need," he said. "We try very hard to get people out of the system
(of financial dependency)."

During the five-year self-sufficiency program, the family gradually pays
more money toward rent and AHD pays less. The department puts the extra
funds in an escrow account, and at the end of five years the family receives
the funds if it has achieved its financial goals. The hope is that the
family will use the account toward a down payment on a house.

The AHD has helped four families buy houses by putting their HUD funds
toward mortgage payments.

Copyright  2005, Challenger Communications, LLC, Covington, KY, USA