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Jackson County to get $801,588 for rent aid

Jackson County will receive $801,588 in federal aid to help people afford rent. File photo
Money comes from federal COVID-19 stimulus bill

Jackson County will get $801,588 in federal COVID-19 stimulus aid to help people afford rental housing starting this summer.

The money will fund vouchers that supplement the money people pay for housing, ensuring they won’t have to pay more than 30% of their income on rent, said Jason Elzy, Housing Authority of Jackson County executive director.

Even before the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of housing from September 2020 wildfires, one in three renters in Jackson County spent more than 50% of their income on housing. Those people are categorized as extremely rent burdened, according to the Housing Authority.

The Almeda and South Obenchain fires destroyed 2,500 homes, including houses, manufactured homes and apartment buildings.

“It’s a very unique challenge to make sure we can utilize these vouchers in our county where we know there’s a housing shortage,” Elzy said.

He said the Housing Authority plans to work with social service providers such as ACCESS, Maslow Project and Community Works to help people navigate the rental market. There will also be outreach to landlords about joining the program.

The money will cover 68 new vouchers for individuals and households, Elzy said.

The Housing Authority already manages a voucher program to supplement people’s rent.

The new funding will help people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness or housing instability. The money can also be used to help people who are fleeing or trying to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking, Elzy said.

He said Jackson County Continuum of Care already has a list of people in need of housing help. That list will be the starting point to reach people who could benefit from the new vouchers.

Required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a continuum of care is a coalition of local community groups working to prevent and end homelessness.

Across Oregon, cities and counties are receiving more than $19 million in extra housing vouchers after Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act this spring.

“Every single Oregonian deserves an affordable and accessible place to call home,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. “The economic fallout from the global pandemic has worsened a statewide housing shortage and affordability crisis. These vouchers give local housing authorities critical tools to provide Oregonians with the stability they need to build a life where they can thrive.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, said he’ll keep pushing for funding to help people weather the pandemic and have affordable housing.

Elzy said he’s grateful to Oregon’s senators for their work to help address Southern Oregon’s housing crisis.

The West Coast states of Oregon, Washington and California have among the highest rates of homelessness in the nation. Only New York and Hawaii have more homeless people per capita, according to HUD.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.