Landlords needed

Regional housing officials are seeking landlords willing to accept tenants who receive rent-assistance through the Section 8 housing voucher program.

The vouchers cover 60 to 70 percent of the rent for people who meet the program’s eligibility criteria.

Michele Gonzales, director of the Stanislaus County Housing Authority’s regional voucher programs, said more than 65 percent of the 355 people on the waiting list for vouchers in Tuolumne County are elderly or disabled.

Gonzales said the benefit to landlords participating in the program is a guaranteed revenue stream.

The authority’s inspectors must first make sure any potential property meets the program’s requirements. A monthly check is conducted after that if the property is rented by a tenant receiving assistance.

Any landlords interested in participating can request a free inspection that won’t obligate them to do anything beyond that, Gonzales said.

For more information, contact Inspection Supervisor Sean Miragliotta at (209) 557-2037.

A regional agency that manages the federal Section 8 housing-assistance voucher program will open the waiting list to Tuolumne County residents later this month for the first time in more than two years.

The Stanislaus County Housing Authority announced this week that it will accept applications for the waiting list beginning Sept. 20. Tuolumne County will be issued an additional 30 to 40 vouchers that cover between 60 and 70 percent of an eligible applicant’s rent.

“Once we open the waiting list, we’ll be pulling from that and issuing another 30 to 40 vouchers,” said Michele Gonzales, director of the authority’s regional Housing Choice voucher programs. “People can then go locate housing, but that’s going to be the hard part.”

There are 144 people receiving vouchers through the program in Tuolumne County, the most of the seven rural counties overseen by the authority.

After the Central Sierra Planning Council folded due to financial troubles in 2011, the Modesto-based authority assumed administration of the low-income housing program in Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador, Alpine, Inyo, Mariposa and Mono counties.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development transferred the program to the nearest existing housing authority because it had no plans to create new authorities at the time.

Gonzales said there are currently about 375 people who use the Section 8 vouchers in the seven-county area. The waiting list for Tuolumne County alone is currently 355 people strong.

More than 65 percent of the people on the Section 8 waiting list in Tuolumne County are elderly or disabled, according to Gonzales.

The highest priority for available vouchers is given to military veterans, followed by seniors, people with disabilities and families. About 10 percent of the vouchers are set aside for people who are already in housing.

“There’s such a limited amount of funding that you’ll have people sitting the list struggling who might have already moved because they can’t afford the rent, or, heaven forbid, gotten evicted,” Gonzales said.

One of the challenges is finding landlords who are willing to accept tenants with vouchers. Another is the general lack of affordable housing both in the area and throughout the state that’s driving up rental costs.

“There is just a lack of housing, period,” Gonzales said. “What’s happening is our renters who have the highest income are really the most competitive and kind of forcing out middle-income, working households and low-income elderly on a fixed income.”

Sheila Shanahan, housing program coordinator for the Tuolumne County Community Resources Agency, said that one of the unique issues squeezing the market in the area is the number of rentals being taken by people working on the tree mortality crisis.

Another more widespread issue is the growing number of landlords opting for short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb as opposed to long-term tenants.

Shanahan said a guaranteed revenue stream is one of the advantages for landlords renting to people with Section 8 vouchers, but some don’t feel comfortable renting to people who have lower incomes.

“There’s a stigma attached to it, but there’s a wide variety of people in the program,” including elderly, disabled and families, Shanahan said.

Shanahan said the average Social Security payment is about $1,390 a month, and the average Supplemental Security Income payment for disabled people is about $830 a month.

Though the county does not have reliable statistics on the typical cost for a one-bedroom or two-bedroom rental, Shanahan said the rent alone could take up most of a person’s Social Security or SSI check.

The county expects to receive a $75,000 grant from that state that would help make the county eligible next summer for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in funding through the state’s No Place Like Home program.

Created through legislation signed into law last year, the program will dedicate $2 billion in bond proceeds to the development of permanent supportive housing for people who suffer from mental illness and are homeless or on the verge of homelessness.

Shanahan said the creation of such housing could help free some space in the rental market for low-income individuals and families.

Another way to free up rentals would be to build more market-rate housing, Shanahan said.
There are currently several bills being considered by the state Legislature that are aimed at addressing the state’s affordable housing crisis.

Senate Bill 2 would impose a $75 recording fee for each non-purchase real estate transaction, such as home refinancing, loan transferring and title changes. There would be a $225 limit per transaction.

Senate Bill 3 would place a $3 billion bond on the 2018 ballot to increase state spending on low-income housing.

There are also other pieces of legislation aimed at reducing regulations to make more sites available for developing housing, though Shanahan said that wouldn’t apply to the county as much because there’s a number of sites of available.

“I think anything to streamline and make it easier to build affordable housing would be a positive,” Shanahan said. “I hope they pass, personally.”

Applications for the Section 8 program waiting list will be available beginning Sept. 20 at .

Income limits for Tuolumne County are $21,100 for a single person, $24,100 for two people, $27,100 for three, $30,100 for four, $32,550 for five, $34,950 for six, $37,350 for seven, and $39,750 for eight.