In the first six months as the new Executive Director of the Yellow Medicine County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), Cathy Jakobs knows one thing for sure: “We need more landlords to participate in the program.” Her office manages the Housing Choice Voucher Program for the county. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Yellow Medicine County and provides rental assistance to low-income households. Qualifying renters contribute 30 to 40 percent of their monthly adjusted gross income toward their housing costs, and the voucher program pays the balance of the rent directly to the landlord.
Each rental unit must pass an inspection before assistance can be approved. Jakobs currently has a wide range of housing types on the program including single-family homes, duplexes, townhomes, apartments, and manufactured homes. According to Jakobs, one advantage to landlords who participate in the program, is a regular payment every month. Though the tenant also usually has to pay a portion of the rent, the tenant knows that once a landlord reports to the HRA that a tenant is not paying their share of the rent, it can result in the loss of their voucher. Tenants holding a housing voucher also are required to comply with other rules regarding lease compliance and caring for the unit.
Advantages for tenants include being able to choose the type of housing that best meets their needs, and the assurance that the rental unit is meeting HUD’s guidelines for safe, decent housing. In addition, if a tenant wants to move, the assistance can follow them to a different rental unit. Jakobs notes that as families change, housing needs change too. The voucher program allows the assistance to follow the renter to a different rental unit—anywhere in the country—for any number of reasons, including a change in family size, the location of a job or a school, or perhaps an elderly person’s desire to live closer to children. “This is the most unique and user-friendly housing assistance available” says Jakobs. Jakobs would like to see more landlords and renters participating.
HUD has allocated funding for up to 73 vouchers in Yellow Medicine County, but the program is currently assisting an average of 61 renters each month. She notes a particular needs for three and four bedroom rental units for families with children. Jakobs is looking forward to working together with landlords, tenants, and the broader community to increase the availability of safe and affordable housing options in the county. Landlords who want more information about the program can contact Jakobs at (320) 269-6414. Applications for renters are available by calling the HRA office or online at https://ccymchra.wixsite.com/ccymchra.