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Housing assistance demand remains high
Housing programs for low-income and homeless people remain in demand as the financial foundations change for the agencies providing services.
The Clallam County Housing Authority absorbed significant funding cuts in 2011 by reducing administrative and staffing costs, said Pam Tietz, executive director of Peninsula Housing Authority. As state and federal budgets undergo cuts, the housing authority’s budget may need to be reevaluated, she said.
Final numbers have not yet been released by the Washington State Department of Commerce or Department of Housing and Urban Development, she said.
The housing authority provides affordable rental-housing programs for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
In 2010, PHA helped 79 households with nearly $36,000 a month in rental assistance paid to private landlords. In a 2011 interview with the Sequim Gazette, Tietz said the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which assists low-income families by subsidizing a portion of their monthly rent and providing a utility allowance, sometimes has a waiting list of two to three years. The wait list is currently closed to new applicants.
The PHA lists the Sunbelt Apartments as its only Sequim property, with rent adjusted to approximately 30 percent of adjusted income. Other affordable housing complexes in Sequim are Pioneer Villa, Suncrest I and II, Suncrest Village (senior), Vintage at Sequim (senior), Elk Creek and the Sea Breeze apartments.
Action Property Management and Landmark Property Management also provide some affordable housing listings, according to the housing authority.
Olympic Community Action Programs provides assistance to low-income homeowners and renters, as well.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is available through spring 2012, though at this point future appointments won’t be available until OlyCAP knows more about funding for the program, according to the OlyCAP website.
OlyCAP also has a rent assistance program through the Sequim Housing Resource Center.
In January, Janet Anderson was named acting director for OlyCAP following the resignation of Tim Hockett.
Hockett resigned in December 2011, citing stress and frustration with operating an assistance program dependent on ever-declining funding as well as health issues following treatment for colon cancer.
Anderson, who began working for OlyCAP in 1989 as a grant writer, did not respond to several requests for comment and information on assistance and housing programs in the east end of Clallam County.
In response to questions about OlyCAP looking to sell three low-income houses in Port Townsend, which housed people who were disabled, mentally ill or homeless, Anderson said OlyCAP is considering whether that is the best use for the homes.
“Really and truly, every contract and program we operate over the last year we’ve watched very carefully because of cuts going on at the funding level,” she said.
The emergency shelter apartments currently owned and operated by Serenity House Services must be emptied in three years as the City of Sequim purchases the property for a new city hall building.
Kathy Wahto, director of Serenity House Services, said the purchase agreement between the two entities specifies the city must continue to lease the apartment building and store for three years.
Wahto said the 10 apartments are all occupied, primarily by homeless families seeking shelter. All the residents are involved in Serenity House programs, which include emergency shelter, transitional housing, homelessness prevention, permanent supportive housing, case management, child care, and life skills classes.
Serenity House provides housing assistance to up to 20 households at a time with subsidies or housing vouchers, Wahto said. All are at high risk of homelessness and often families with children who need one-time assistance, she said.
The most help the agency gives in Sequim is community-based housing, trying to keep families in their homes rather than shelters or time-limited housing, she said.
Several families received assistance from Serenity House Services to move into the new Sea Breeze Apartments, she said.
The 42-unit Sea Breeze complex opened Nov. 1, 2011, and the last vacant unit will be occupied soon, according to property managers.
Wahto said Sequim is lucky to have the subsidized housing it does.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.