Author: Nathan Morabito
Published: 7:38 PM EDT September 17, 2019
Updated: 7:38 PM EDT September 17, 2019
The Charlotte Housing Authority unanimously approved a major change that would give families with federal housing vouchers more time to use the rental assistance before the vouchers expire Tuesday night.
Prior to the new proposal, voucher holders in Charlotte only had 120 days to find a landlord to accept the voucher before the government subsidy expires. CHA records show one out of every three vouchers expired before they could be used in recent years.
Velda Harper knows how it feels to ride that rollercoaster of emotions. CHA initially awarded her a voucher to cover hundreds of dollars in rent.
“I was so incredibly excited,” Harper said.
Unfortunately, Harper said she didn’t have enough time to find an apartment, so her voucher expired.
“That 120 days was not going to cut it,” she said. “It wasn’t going to work.”
Struggling with medical issues, today she’s forced to live with a friend.
“It’s just been a really hard road,” Harper said.
Experts said Charlotte’s booming population growth, an overall lack of housing and landlords’ refusals to rent to people with government vouchers are all to blame for the difficulty in using the vouchers.
“Think about it, 120 days to find it and there are some people who still can’t find people to accept their voucher,” CHA Senior Vice President of Public Relations Cheron Porter said. “They’re still finding it difficult and we’re doing what we can to help them find housing.”
In other cities, housing authorities give voucher holders more time. In San Diego, for example, people can ask for up to 420 days and there, only 10% or so of newly available vouchers expire.
A CHA committee recommended changing the rules by giving people up to 180 days, or an extra two months, to use their vouchers before they expire. That proposal followed NBC Charlotte’s work with the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative.
“We’re in a housing crisis and it’s been extremely hard for our families to find housing within that time period, so we extended it an additional 60 days to give our families more opportunity to find the quality housing they’re looking for in Charlotte,” CHA CEO Fulton Meachem said following Tuesday’s vote. “Everybody was on board with this, making sure our residents have as many opportunities as possible to find housing.”
Meachem said the 210 voucher holders currently looking for places to live will be allowed to use the just-approved extra 60 days.
While the change is better than the status quo, Harper fears an extra two months still isn’t enough time.
“That’s somewhat of a nice gesture, but it’s really not going to eradicate or help the problem,” she said.