Emergency housing vouchers provide some relief

Jun. 21—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued Oregon counties and cities more than $19 million in emergency housing vouchers though public housing authorities.

The vouchers, provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, are designed to assist people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and people who are fleeing domestic violence.

The Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, which provides critical housing assistance to low-income residents in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties, was awarded $752,652, or 57 vouchers. The vouchers will start in July.

"Every single Oregonian deserves an affordable and accessible place to call home," U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a statement. "The economic fallout from the global pandemic has worsened a statewide housing shortage and affordability crisis. These vouchers give local housing authorities critical tools to provide Oregonians with the stability they need to build a life where they can thrive."

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, said, "It's impossible to thrive without a safe and affordable roof over your head. I've been pushing for strong responses to meet the housing crisis so many (of our) families are facing, and that have become even more dire during the pandemic, and these grants are a good piece of the solution. I will continue to do all I can to secure the resources we need to weather this pandemic and make sure all of Oregon's families have a home they can afford."

The Northwest Oregon Housing Authority will administer the vouchers to people referred by a social services agency in each county. Clatsop Community Action, which operates the regional food bank and provides housing, energy assistance and other critical services to low-income people, will make referrals in Clatsop County.

The housing authority put a freeze on issuing new vouchers last year as part of a corrective action plan to get from "troubled" to what HUD calls a "standard performer." HUD defined the housing authority as troubled in January 2020 following an audit report of the housing choice voucher program.

More than 480 households are on the waiting list for vouchers in Clatsop County. Most households on the waiting list are people who are single, elderly and disabled.

The emergency housing vouchers will not be administered to people on the waiting list. People must fit the guidelines for the emergency help and be referred by Clatsop Community Action.

"NOHA is looking forward to working with our exceptional community partners, CAT (Community Action Team), CARE (Community Action Resource Enterprises) and CCA to expand the supply of affordable housing," Nina Reed, the chairwoman of the housing authority's board of commissioners, said in an email. "This is a great opportunity to engage our services with theirs and build new relationships!"