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VALLEY FOCUS | Valleywide

Rent Aid Applications Flood Section 8 Office

October 05, 1998|HOLLY EDWARDS

A record-breaking number of applications--nearly 150,000--have poured into the Los Angeles Housing Authority office after city officials announced last month they would offer Section 8 rental assistance for the first time in more than eight years.

The large number of applicants who applied for assistance prior to the Oct. 1 deadline shows the need for affordable housing in Los Angeles is greater than ever, said Los Angeles Section 8 Program Director Steve Renahan.

Eight years ago, when applications were last accepted--there were about 82,000 applicants, Renahan said.

This time around, only 2,000 to 3,000 of the applicants will receive aid, leaving more than 140,000 residents in substandard, overcrowded housing conditions, he said.

A lottery to be held in mid- to late-October will determine applicants' placement on the registration list.

"The reality is now in Los Angeles, low-income households that don't get help live in illegal garage conversions or they're doubling and tripling up in small apartments," he said. "And this includes working families. Even a full-time minimum-wage job isn't enough for a family to afford housing in the city."

Aimed at helping low-income families, senior citizens and the disabled find affordable housing, the Section 8 program offers rent subsidies by making housing assistance payments directly to private landlords. Tenants pay 30% of their adjusted gross income for rent and the federally funded Section 8 program pays the balance, Renahan said.

To qualify, applicants must meet age, disability and income requirements. For instance, a family of four can earn no more than $25,650 annually to qualify.

Renahan said he is disturbed by the discrepancy between the need for the Section 8 program and federal funding provided for it. He added that Section 8 funds have diminished as mortgage interest tax deductions for middle-income families have increased.

"Funding for Section 8 is in stark contrast to the tax breaks offered middle-income families," he said. "Last year, $70 billion in taxes were forgiven under mortgage tax breaks, while funding for the Section 8 program totaled about $20 billion."

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