Record numbers seeking housing assistance - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Record numbers seeking housing assistance

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Posted: Monday, November 24, 2003 9:49 pm

Scottsdale broke a record this month that you'll never read about on the pages of a chamber of commerce newsletter.

A snaking line of 561 people showed up Nov. 12 to get on a waiting list for federally subsidized housing assistance. It was the highest number city housing officials said they have seen.

By comparison, 343 people showed up two years ago to apply for the "Section 8" voucher program, which allows certain low-income residents to get rental assistance.

"It says to me that the economy is down. The economy has been down for awhile," said Connie James, Scottsdale's human services director. "And folks are still having a difficult time making it. It starts with the basic things people need to get ahead in the world, and housing is the first."

The city already doles out 672 housing vouchers each year, which means the people who showed up earlier this month will be on a waiting list along with dozens of others who were already on the waiting list. The vouchers become available only after someone improves their financial condition and leaves the program.

It's not unusual for cities to have large rosters of people on a waiting list.

Nearby Chandler, whose population and residents' median income roughly mirrors Scottsdale's, doles out 480 vouchers each year, and has more than 700 people on a waiting list.

"It's a huge need," said Lorraine Harris, Chandler's housing administrative supervisor. "And it's sad because a lot of people are not able to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing in the market right now."

More than 15,000 people are on Phoenix's waiting list, said Mark Bethel, community assistance manager for Scottsdale.

Bethel points to 2000 U.S. Census figures that show about 40 percent of Scottsdale residents who rent are spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

Housing experts generally consider "affordable housing" to be no more than 30 percent of a person's income, Bethel said.

James said the number of people who showed up is a concern for the city.

"Some of the people who were there have been living in cars, living in hotels when they can afford it, living from place to place," she said. "It's not a stable environment for them."

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