Friday, May 23, 2008

Virginia Beach Federal Rental Subsidies For The Poor

If you were paying attention, there was an ad in yesterday's Beacon (Page 32, Bayside edition) to amend Virginia Beach's Agency Plan for housing subsidies for the poor. Getting a subsidy myself due to disability, I had to go to the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation (DHNP) this morning to find out what was going on.

The visit started badly: I had trouble finding DHNP's temporary office (Building 8 instead of Building 18A), then the first couple Staffers I dealt with had no knowledge of the ad. Finally I was greeted by Housing Program Coordinator Minta Walker, who took me into a conference room, talked to me, and gave me a copy of the existing plan (the new one wasn't available) to look over. If I understood correctly, it would create a second, parallel housing subsidy program. We currently have the well-known Housing Choice Voucher Program. The pending Federal grant would create a Rental Subsidy Program as a 1A. Given Federal cuts in the existing program, some current Voucher holders will be bumped to the new program at least temporarily. The same Federal standards apply to both programs.

Some statistics for Virginia Beach: we currently have 2,050 households with Vouchers. The Waiting List is almost as long: 1,920 households. On the Waiting List, 72.14% are extremely low income, with 84.74% families with children. Surprisingly, only 1.04% on the Waiting List are disabled.

With that huge of a backlog of people with obvious needs, something has to be done. If the changes are as Ms. Walker described them to me, the Virginia Beach City Council should give the requisite approval.

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