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Section 8 Shortage Amid Growing Demand

The Section 8 program provides federal subsidized housing, up to two-thirds of monthly rent, for lower income and special needs people who qualify.

For some it’s a dream come true.

For others, notably property owners and landlords, it’s red tape, paperwork and government regulations.

Which might explain why there are fewer and fewer rental units for those lucky enough to have a Section 8 voucher.

There is not nearly enough rental housing in Santa Barbara County, or nearly anywhere else on the Central Coast, to accommodate the growing demand for the federally subsidized Section 8 housing program.

“The lack of Section 8 housing and people who will accept people with disabilities and are willing to accept section 8, most people are not”, says Santa Maria resident Liz Asaro, “I looked for 18 months, every day, morning and night.”

Asaro is now caring for her wheelchair-bound daughter Jessica in her home that was not designed for disabled or special needs access.

“There’s no bathroom she can use, I have a two story house, the bottom floor has just a powder room, there’s a toilet and a sink and I cannot get her through the doorway to get her to the bathroom”, Asaro says about caring for her daughter, “so I’m having to take her to the Walmart superstore (to use the bathroom).”

Jessica Asaro, who suffers from cerebal palsy, was recently evicted from her Section 8 rental unit in Orcutt.

Liz Asaro says she and Jessica are not alone in their plight to find suitable, federally subsidized, section 8 housing for Jessica so she can live independently.

“Its a really, tough, tough time right now as a shelter provider to try and help the homeless and those that are low income to get into housing”, says Sylvia Barnard who runs homeless, transitional and low-income housing facilities in the Santa Maria and Lompoc areas under the Good Samaritan Shelters banner.

“There isn’t enough housing units on the market to start with”, Barnard says, “then on top of that, we’ve got issues with the people we serve that are low income that are homeless, so housing is the biggest issue we have, we don’t have enough inventory.”

Making matters worse, no new Section 8 vouchers are being issued to Santa Barbara County’s Housing Authority by the federal Housing and Urban Development Agency or HUD.

“There are Section 8 vouchers that have been allocated but there are no new Section 8 vouchers that have been received in our County, so there’s a waitlist”, Barnard says, “last I heard the waitlist was seven years long, and so if you are a low income family and you are looking for housing and you qualify you have to get on a waiting list and wait at least seven years, but that wait list is not even open because there are no new vouchers being given in our county at this time.”

With no new funding in place to build new, affordable rental units, Barnard says the affordable housing shortage will only get worse locally.

“All of our shelters, all of our transitional housing, every bed we have is full with a waiting list”, Barnard says, “we’ve been running overflow shelter consistently for three years.”

Property owners of rental units are encouraged to enroll in the federal Section 8 program that has been streamlined to accommodate landlord reimbursements.

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