Low-income tenants may be charged higher rents

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

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SEATTLE -  The Seattle Housing Authority proposed a plan this week to change the formula for the amount of assistance low-income tenants would receive.

Calling the proposal “Stepping Forward,” the agency would increase rents gradually over several years’ time for adults age 24-61 who are able to work. The system currently has tenants paying 30 percent of their incomes.

Under the draft proposal, rents would instead be tied to the size of the rental unit. The program also includes enhanced education, training, and employment support.

For example, a family might start out paying $160 a month for a two-bedroom unit. That rent would increase to $360 a month the following two years, then $560 for the fourth and fifth years, then $860 for the sixth year. The agency is still determining if there should be any further increases after that.

“The whole point of this is to help people be successful,” said Andrew Lofton, executive director of the Seattle Housing Authority.

Lofton said he believes most people will be successful in getting higher-earning jobs and won’t need assistance anymore. That will make room for more families to receive housing.

But in order for a tenant to pay the increased rents, they would have to make about $20 an hour by the fifth or sixth year.

Sylvia Sabon, who raises her grandson on two part-time receptionist jobs, currently gets paid $11.54 an hour.

“I’ve been working half my life, and I have never made $20 an hour,” she said.

KIRO 7 found out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics that total compensation in the Seattle area increased by less than 2 percent from June 2013 to June 2014. The year before, the increase was less than 5 percent.

Sabon is eager to participate in Stepping Forward’s training and education program. She also wants to earn more. But she also knows success is not necessarily inevitable.

“I’m just going to guess half of us will lose the roof over our heads,” Sabon said. “Even if you do all the schooling and stuff, does it guarantee that an employer is going to hire us?”

Lofton said there is no guarantee, but he believes most people will have the skills to earn more, faster.

“What we are trying to do is to take advantage of their incentives and their wanting to do better, and give them the right tools,” Lofton said.

He estimates that with the revenue from higher rents, 600 more families will get housed.

More than 9,000 households are currently waiting for housing.

Lofton also said federal budget cuts will reduce their funding by about $12 million a year for the next 10 years.

The following public meetings will be held to gather community input:

Date & Time

Location

Sept. 16, 6 p.m.

Meadowbrook Comm. Cntr., 10517 - 35th Ave NE

Sept. 17, 6 p.m.

Yesler Community Cntr., 917 E Yesler Way

Sept. 22, 6 p.m.

Rainier Community Cntr., 4600 38th Ave S

Sept. 23, 6 p.m.

New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 - 32nd Ave S

Sept. 29, 6 p.m.

High Point Comm. Cntr., 6920 34th Ave SW

 

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