03/12/12 AHFC Seeks to Revamp the Preference System for Housing Choice Voucher Program

ANCHORAGE, MONDAY, MARCH 12 - Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) is seeking public comments regarding its current system that awards points for preferences to individuals who are on waiting lists to receive housing assistance through both its Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing programs. AHFC is holding a public hearing about its moving to Work plan tomorrow evening, March 13, 2012 from 4-6 p.m., and written comments are accepted until March 30, 2012. AHFC's management intends to present its plan to its Board of Directors with recommendations for a new system at the next board meeting, April 4, 2012.

The existing preference system offers points for 11 different categories ranging from veteran preference to housing displacement because of terminal illness or disability. "It's painfully clear that the present preference system isn't working. It's too complex, very time consuming to administer, frustrating and sadly, discouraging for people in need", says Dan Fauske, AHFC CEO and executive director.

Before 1998, housing agencies across the country were mandated by the federal government to use a points-based system when providing housing assistance. When the requirement was dropped less than a decade later, Alaska maintained the system currently in place.

The largest driver affecting the recommended change by management at this time is a statewide economy that has more families in need who are staying in public housing for longer periods. Today, the average time that families receive housing assistance through the Voucher program is 8.5 years compared to 10 years ago when the average turnover was just 3.5 years. Every family who seeks assistance is living in poverty.

The Housing Choice Voucher program assists families in 13 communities across the state; waiting lists are currently in excess of 5,100 families, with more than half of those who have applied living in Anchorage. This prompted AHFC management to close its Anchorage waiting list In June 2011, and is no longer accepting names.

The Public Housing program also assists families in 13 communities. There are currently in excess of 4,300 families. There is some duplication on the two lists as families can sign up for both the Housing Choice Voucher program as well as the Public Housing program.

"We took some criticism but it was the right thing to do. With more than 4,000 families on the waiting list, 250 new applications coming in every month and a turnover of fewer than 10 units per month, the situation created false hope for housing for those in greatest need", says Dan Fauske, who says he welcomes lively conversation about how to best create a system that meets the vital needs of Alaskans.

"Almost all new admissions in the past 10 years have family incomes below 30 percent of the area median income, which is below poverty level in Alaska. The housing need is enormous and we have an obligation to address the situation in the best way possible", says Dan Fauske.

AHFC is a self-supporting public corporation with offices in 16 communities statewide. It provides statewide financing for multi-family complexes and single-family homes, with special loan options for low- to moderate-income borrowers, veterans, teachers, health care professionals, and those living in rural areas of the state.

AHFC also provides energy and weatherization programs, low-income rental assistance in 17 communities, and programs for the homeless and those seeking to become self-sufficient. AHFC has contributed more than $1.9 billion to Alaska's state budget revenues through cash transfers, capital projects and debt-service payments.

For more information, contact: Soren Johansson, public relations manager, 907-330-8447, sjohansson@ahfc.us.

FACT SHEET

PUBLIC HOUSING BACKGROUND: Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) is the State of Alaska's (SOA) recognized public housing authority. The Housing Choice Voucher (voucher) program is one of two public housing programs administered by AHFC. The other is Public Housing Property Management (PH). Both programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) through Congress. Following is a snapshot of both programs:

Voucher: Administers 4,275 vouchers and operates in 13 locations across Alaska. Voucher recipients enter the private housing market and rent a unit; families will pay 30 percent of their adjusted income in rent and through the federal funding it receives, AHFC subsidizes the balance.

PH: Serves 1,625 families where AHFC owns housing infrastructure in 13 communities across Alaska. PH recipients pay 30 percent of their adjusted income in rent and through the federal funding it receives, AHFC subsidizes the cost of operations of the facilities.

HUD also administers funding for two additional programs in Alaska that serve rural Alaska. One is the Indian Housing Block Grant and another is the Title VI Loan Guarantee program. Alaska has 14 regional housing authorities that have great latitude in establishing programs that work for the geographic areas they serve.

ISSUE: The common denominator among all people seeking housing with AHFC is poverty. The income limit for those eligible for the Voucher program is 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), and varies slightly by community. At admission, between 75-90 percent of the families AHFC assists has an income below federal poverty guidelines. In 2011, the income limits for those eligible to receive assistance were as follows:

No. of persons in familyAlaskaAnchorage
1 $13,600 $29,400
2 $18,380 $33,600
3 $23,160 $37,800
4 $27,940 $42,000