The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday December 4th

Town approves funds for Section 8 tenants whose vouchers haven't been accepted

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous headline for this story mischaracterized the reason Orange County Section 8 tenants were put at risk of losing their housing. While tenants still have vouchers, several properties have stopped accepting them. The headline has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

At a Chapel Hill Town Council meeting Monday, the council approved a $10,000 emergency fund for families displaced because their complex has stopped accepting Section 8 housing vouchers.

Section 8 vouchers are a federally funded subsidy that help low-income families afford private housing.

The Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition — which includes organizations such as EmPOWERment Inc., Justice United and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP — plans to use the money to start a new program that offers rental and utility assistance to those displaced families.

By helping families with expenses, such as utility bills and security deposits, the coalition hopes to make each family’s transition to a new home smoother.

Tish Galu, chairwoman of the board at Justice United, a community organization that addresses social justice issues, said many of the families could not afford to pay a deposit on a new apartment because their former landlords had not returned money from a previous security deposit.

“They would not be able to get other housing,” she said. “We realized we had to look at a way to help fund the deposit.”

The coalition is trying to assess which families qualify for the emergency fund and how much money they would need. At Monday’s meeting, the council amended the c oalition’s resolution to guarantee the funding would be grant money, meaning it doesn’t have to be paid back to the town.

The council also expressed interest in expanding the qualifications for the fund by referring the issue to its housing department.

Galu said the coalition and the town would discuss whether to include families who qualify for Section 8 vouchers but are still on the waiting list. She said the waiting list has more than 800 applicants.

In the past year, local apartment management companies GSC Apartment Homes and Aspen Square Management stopped accepting the vouchers.

The decision eliminated almost 20 percent of Section 8 housing options in the county.

Maggie West, program coordinator for Community Empowerment Fund, said the coalition went to the council because they did not want low-income families to lose out on housing because of upfront costs.

“It’s a ad-hoc coalition that just kind of united around the challenge,” she said. “Those opportunities are so rare.”

Galu said she thinks the council’s decisions are positive for the affordable housing situation.

“Our entire group is quite excited about the collaboration,” she said. “It’s a big deal.”

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