SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 28, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The County of Santa Clara's Board of Supervisors is extending the availability of funds for Section 8 families affected by federal budget cuts and facing eviction. In response to the community's need, Housing Trust Silicon Valley (HTSV), in collaboration with the County of Santa Clara, Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, and other local governments and agencies, established the Sequester Eviction Prevention Program (SEPP) to provide free housing-related legal services and emergency financial assistance to Section 8 families experiencing rent increases and possible eviction after the September 1, 2013 rent increases.
On September 24, 2013, the County Board of Supervisors set aside $1 million for emergency financial assistance for Section 8 families to avoid eviction and possibly homelessness. The availability of funds expired on December 31, 2013. On January 14, the Board of Supervisors approved an extension on the use of funds to allow more families to benefit from the program. Program funds are now available to Section 8 families through May 2014.
"This program is a community response to the congressional decision to reduce the County's Section 8 funding," said Katherine Harasz, Deputy Executive Director/General Council of The Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara. "The Housing Authority could not have funded or staffed this program alone: the County provided a $1 million contribution, and the Law Foundation and Housing Trust Silicon Valley stepped up to provide essential client services. We are proud to be a part of such an impressive community response to prevent the eviction of families most severely impacted by these federal cuts."
Families seeking assistance no longer have to be in the process of eviction to apply for help. Now, families who have fallen behind on their rent payments due to the Section 8 rent increases, and are at the threat of eviction, may be eligible for a one-time grant to pay past due rent. To determine eligibility, families can contact the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley at 408-280-2424, or contact their Housing Specialist at the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara at 408-275-8770. SEPP also makes available security deposit grants to families moving to a more affordable home.
"Our attorneys have been working with dozens of families that can't pay their higher Section 8 rent share, but aren't able to find affordable replacement housing in his tough rental market," said Kyra Kazantzis, Directing Attorney, Public Interest Law Firm and Fair Housing Law Project, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. "Being able to access some funding to give families extra time and pay for security deposits has been indispensable to our efforts to negotiate with landlords and try to mitigate the disruptive and stressful effects of being forced to relocate."
HTSV was selected as the administrator of the $1.8 million Sequester Eviction Prevention Program. Last fall, HTSV was awarded $1 million by the County of Santa Clara, and $500,000 by the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara. Additionally, the cities of San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara have pledged funds to assist Section 8 families in their jurisdictions.
With the extension of County funds, approximately 300 Section 8 families can be assisted through SEPP with housing-related legal services and emergency financial assistance. These preventive measures and funds will support the countywide goal of ending homelessness.
Section 8 is the rental housing assistance program operated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development which helps millions of low-income households across the country pay rent through Housing Choice Vouchers and other programs.
In December, HTSV and the Cities Association of Santa Clara County issued a whitepaper ("Affordable Housing Landscape and Local Best Practices") that reported a homelessness uptick in Santa Clara County. The 2013 Santa Clara County Homeless Census & Surveyi cited in the whitepaper states that there were more than 7,600 homeless individuals in 2012, an increase of eight percent over 2011. Families accounted for 14 percent of the overall homeless population in Santa Clara County.
"Our goal is to help as many Silicon Valley families as possible who may be at risk for homelessness, which is why we want to sincerely thank the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for extending these funds," said Sandra Murillo, Director of Grants Administration for HTSV. "The five percent federal reduction in the Section 8 program last year is still putting incredible strain on many Silicon Valley families."
Though the federal government may be increasing total Section 8 funding in the coming year, the impact of 2013's sequester is ongoing for local families most at need. Earlier this month, the Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3547) was filed and includes $17.4 billion for the renewal of Section 8 funds nationally, which represents a $1 billion increase over 2013.ii
About Housing Trust Silicon Valley
Housing Trust Silicon Valley (HTSV) is among the largest housing trusts in the nation financing housing and assisting first-time homebuyers. As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), HTSV is nationally recognized for providing the resources and leadership needed to make housing more affordable for those who want to live in Silicon Valley. Since 2001, HTSV has invested more than $75 million and leveraged more than $1.88 billion to create more than 9,953 housing opportunities. Of those served, 83% had household incomes below 80% of the Area Medium Income (AMI).
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Source: Housing Trust Silicon Valley