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Published:November 22nd, 2007 14:42 EST
HUD TO TAKE OVER RENTAL HOUSING ASSISTANCE FOR NEARLY 30,000

HUD TO TAKE OVER RENTAL HOUSING ASSISTANCE FOR NEARLY 30,000

By SOP newswire

WASHINGTON - Nearly 30,000 residents affected by the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes will continue to receive housing assistance when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assumes control of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) rental program on December 1, 2007. HUD continues to work with its local public housing agencies (PHA) to reach out to those families who are eligible for this critical housing program to ensure their rent payments continue, and to offer them services to help them get back on the road to self-sufficiency.

"Thousands of hurricane victims still need help," said HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. "That's why earlier this year we decided to extend the rental housing program, but for FEMA to hand it over to HUD since we are in the long-term housing business."

On December 1, thousands of families affected by the hurricanes will continue to receive the housing assistance they need to rebuild their lives and regain self-sufficiency. Families who have been contacted by a local public housing agency will continue to see no break in rent payments. "If you think you're eligible for assistance, but have not been contacted, please call us immediately. We are committed to doing whatever it takes to help those who need it most," added Secretary Jackson.

To ensure help reaches all eligible families, HUD continues to work closely with approximately 375 PHAs and 12,000 landlords who will be implementing and managing the temporary rental assistance under the new Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) now run by HUD. In the past seven months, HUD and PHAs have been aggressively reaching out to families eligible for assistance, sending letters, knocking on doors and calling households. HUD will deploy nearly 20 staff members to cities where the largest numbers of displaced families are currently living, including Houston, Dallas-Forth Worth, New Orleans, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and Memphis.

To date, participating PHAs are working hard at reaching out to approximately 29,000 people for DHAP, linking them with case managers that help them gain access to job training, housing counseling and other forms of support, enabling them to regain self-sufficiency. However, individuals who believe they may be eligible for the DHAP program, but do not think they have been contacted, should calls HUD's toll-free referral center immediately at 1-866-373-9509. Operators are available Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 7:00pm EDT, 9:00am to 1:00pm EDT on Saturday and Sunday.

"All hands are on deck to make this transition as seamless as possible for these families who have already been through so much. Working with HUD's extensive network of public housing agencies and thousands of landlords, we have built a coalition that is working overtime to help families get the housing assistance they need. We will not rest until every eligible family has a roof over their head," Jackson added.

HUD is also requiring all landlords and PHAs participating in DHAP, like it does for all its programs, to meet basic housing quality standards by providing residents with decent, safe and sanitary living conditions. PHA's are required to conduct limited inspections of units to make sure there are no serious health and safety items that may impact the life and well being of these families.

DHAP will also be vital for helping families rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient. Starting March 1, 2008, the level of rental assistance will begin to be gradually reduced to help put program participants on a path to independence. While still receiving supportive services, program participants will have ample time to prepare themselves for self-sufficiency. Residents will pay a small portion of the housing cost, which will begin at $50 per month in March and incrementally increase each month thereafter until the program concludes on March 1, 2009. Seniors and the disabled whose primary source of income is Supplemental Security Income or other fixed income that make them eligible to receive assistance under existing HUD programs will be protected.

Finally, beginning January 2008, HUD will begin working with FEMA to transition remaining eligible families out of travel trailers and into rental housing in the private market.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development, and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov. For more information about FHA products, please visit www.fha.gov.