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http://www.nola.com/newslogs/tpupdates/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_tpupdates/archives/2006_06_21.html#153654
HUD raising amount of Gulf Coast Section 8 vouchers to help with rising housing costs
By Gwen Filosa Staff writer

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will dramatically increase its rental assistance in response to the post-hurricane spike in rents across the Gulf Coast that have left thousands of families without a place to live, officials said Wednesday.

At a morning meeting of the Housing Authority of New Orleans, HUD officials said that as of July 1, Section 8 housing vouchers will jump to 120 percent of the post-hurricane “fair market rent” formulas, an unprecedented move for the federal agency that has overseen the city’s housing authority since 2002.

While the government-set fair market rate for a one-bedroom unit in the metro area is $803, the beefed up Section 8 voucher will net recipients $964 per monthly payment. Landlords who deliver Section 8 housing receive the payment electronically to their bank accounts on the first business day of the month.

The post-Katrina vouchers range from $870 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,128 for a two-bedroom, $1,447 for a three-bedroom, $1,496 for a four-bedroom, and up to $2,275 for a seven-bedroom unit.

Before Katrina, some 9,000 families were living in Section 8 housing across New Orleans, while 5,100 families lived in traditional public housing complexes.

While HANO officials said the new vouchers will persuade landlords to provide more housing in the city, housing advocates said it is still next to impossible, ten months after Katrina, for working families to find suitable homes.

“No matter how high we raise the rents, the fact is, there isn’t going to be enough housing to meet our needs,” said Laura Tuggle, an attorney with New Orleans Legal Action Center. “A voucher doesn’t equal a house.”

Tuggle said HANO has issued some 4,500 Section 8 vouchers post-Katrina, but only 1,600 families have found homes.

HANO said it will continue to monitor the rental market in the New Orleans region.

“The New Orleans rental housing market was significantly impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” said Naomi Roberts, of HANO, in the form letter to Section 8 landlords. “The impact was a combination of damage which made a significant amount of the inventory uninhabitable, and a massive increase in demand for the remaining units.”

In New Orleans, only those who were on public housing assistance before the hurricane season of 2005 may receive a voucher. The waiting lists for public housing and Section 8, lengthy well before Katrina, are closed.

Gwen Filosa can be reached at gfilosa@timespicayune.com or at (504)826-3304.