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CORHA receives funding cut notice

Money would have been used to provide rental assistance
The Central Oregon Regional Housing Authority has received a second notice from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that will cut more funding from families and individuals who have applied for rental assistance.
   CORHA had received notice from HUD in May that funds were to be cut from the Section 8 rental assistance program.
   Last week, the organization received its second notice from HUD that addressed further cuts.
   Although about $380,000 in rental assistance from HUD was ripped from CORHA's budget, the organization's first Crook County housing project will still open its doors next year, construction permitting.
   "Prairie House will be OK," assured Cyndy Cook, executive director for CORHA. "That building is funded through the state," she said of the construction plans.
   The Prairie House facility is an eight-bedroom apartment community that will provide housing for persons experiencing severe and persistent mental illness.
   The director said the construction of the building will proceed as planned, but Cook is unsure how it will affect the eventual residents of the Prairie House.
   "We really don't know that yet. We do know that it will be built, it won't have an effect on the building of it. The availability of vouchers... we'll just have to see," she said.
   The building will be located on the corner of Deer and First St. in Prineville.
   CORHA also receives funding through tax credit and community developments.
   "HUD is not our only funding source," said Cook.
   HUD officials based funding levels for CORHA on the average number of vouchers utilized during May, June, and July. According to Cook, these months are the lowest months for voucher utilization.
   "Usage numbers swing from highs of over The Central Oregon Regional Housing Authority has received a second notice from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that will cut more funding from families and individuals who have applied for rental assistance.
   CORHA had received notice from HUD in May that funds were to be cut from the Section 8 rental assistance program.
   Last week, the organization received its second notice from HUD that addressed further cuts.
   Although about $380,000 in rental assistance from HUD was ripped from CORHA's budget, the organization's first Crook County housing project will still open its doors next year, construction permitting.
   "Prairie House will be OK," assured Cyndy Cook, executive director for CORHA. "That building is funded through the state," she said of the construction plans.
   The Prairie House facility is an eight-bedroom apartment community that will provide housing for persons experiencing severe and persistent mental illness.
   The director said the construction of the building will proceed as planned, but Cook is unsure how it will affect the eventual residents of the Prairie House.
   "We really don't know that yet. We do know that it will be built, it won't have an effect on the building of it. The availability of vouchers... we'll just have to see," she said.
   The building will be located on the corner of Deer and First St. in Prineville.
   CORHA also receives funding through tax credit and community developments.
   "HUD is not our only funding source," said Cook.
   HUD officials based funding levels for CORHA on the average number of vouchers utilized during May, June, and July. According to Cook, these months are the lowest months for voucher utilization.
   "Usage numbers swing from highs of over 1,000 during the winter months, to lows of just over 900 in the summer. If HUD had based their numbers on a yearly average, the numbers would have been more reflective of the actual utilization," explained Richard Drury, CORHA housing services director.
   While the construction of the Prairie House will be left as is, families and individuals in the tri-county area receiving Section 8 funding for rental assistance will be affected.
   "Section 8 is a program funded to CORHA by a contract with HUD," said Cook.
   "Because we're not HUD, we have a contract with HUD to administer this program and they give us an allocation of dollars that we spend and administer in the form of rental assistance to about 1,000 extremely low income families in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties," she explained.
   The Section 8 funding primarily serves tri-county residents who earn less than 30 percent of the area median income.
   The cuts are affecting housing authorities on a national level and will be effective Jan. 1, 2005.
   Due to the cuts, CORHA made the decision to suspend any increments of funding or vouchers residents in the tri-county area were applying for.
   "We)ve been getting calls from a lot of people when we had to suspend the issuance of vouchers. Some people were very close to signing a lease and contract to help subsidize their rent and found out just before Christmas they didn't have funding to subsidize their rent," said Cook.
   "This was all right before Christmas. It was not a very pleasant process," she continued.
   The director believes the $380,000 in funding cuts will affect between 55 to 80 households receiving rental assistance in the tri-county area.
   Some employees from the Central Oregon Regional Housing Authority worked throughout the holidays, brainstorming ideas to band-aid cuts from HUD.
   "We have put in an appeal to HUD and we are waiting to see what comes back, but we know there seems to be some disagreement on what they consider to be cuts, and what we consider to be cuts," said Cook.
   "We want to (win) this appeal, but we're not very optimistic that it will change anything," she continued.
   Cook encourages people who have been affected by the funding cuts to write their local representatives and state senators.
   "I just don't think the representatives and senators really understand what an impact this is having on people," Cook said. She also mentioned that Washington and Oregon housing authority officials are working on a proposal for HUD to gain regulatory control for the operation of the program and funds.
   Today, CORHA has more than 400 units available with more under development and serves more than 1,500 families through a variety of programs.