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learning from each other: leasing extravaganza and outreach program in salt lake city, ut
(top 100 HUD best practices award 2000)

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Agency: Housing Authority of Salt Lake City (HASLC)
(Size of WtW Program: 200 vouchers)

Challenge

Housing Authorities and other WtW voucher program staff faced the challenge of leasing up their WtW Housing Vouchers before the June 2001 deadline. Some PHAs were awarded vouchers numbering 50 percent above their current capacity, requiring them to make creative use of existing resources when leasing up. A crucial step for successfully leasing up is to educate landlords about the benefits of the WtW Housing Voucher program. Using innovative practices that will help expedite the leasing process also increases the likelihood of a successful lease up.

Solution: Outreach Program Lease up Extravaganza

The Housing Authority of Salt Lake City (HASLC) hosted a Section 8 Lease Up Extravaganza in which hundreds of families on welfare participated. Within six weeks of this event, 200 low-income families had obtained housing using 96 percent of the housing authority's Welfare to Work vouchers.

Implementation

The event was the brainchild of Jill Riddle, HASLC's leased housing supervisor. After hearing about a similar event during a conference, Ms. Riddle worked on a modified version with housing authority management. Commitment from the housing authority director, the mayor, HUD staff, local organizations such as the Salt Lake Apartment Association, a group of prominent area landlords, and the Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, a nonprofit providing education to low-income individuals, contributed to the success of the mass lease up.

As a first step, HASLC held a press conference to raise public awareness of the voucher program. At the press event, Salt Lake City Mayor, Rocky Anderson spoke about the need for affordable housing and HUD State Coordinator, Julie Fagan highlighted the positive impact that the voucher program would have on the community.

Within three weeks of the press conference, HASLC had persuaded the Salt Lake Apartment Association to market and host landlord training on the Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher program. A slight rise in area vacancies helped HASLC to convince the association of the need for the training. A panel at the training session included HASLC staff who described the voucher program, as well as an association attorney who explained landlord benefits under the Housing Choice Voucher contract. Landlords signed up on interest sheets and gave HASLC permission to distribute the list to potential residents.

The next step-mass intake-began with notification of the 300 families on HASLC's waiting list to bring in appropriate documents and verification data. The Section 8 staff set up a wall of tables in the back of a room and qualified more than 300 families in two days. The state's Department of Workforce Services assisted by faxing family qualifying information to HASLC within 24 hours.

Just two weeks after the landlord training, qualified families were invited to a two-day mass orientation held in a large cafeteria donated by the Horizonte Instruction and Training Center. Five Section 8 caseworkers roamed the room, answering questions and helping families review and sign their paperwork.

Each family was provided with the list of landlords who had signed interest sheets. A competitive house hunt then began, with 200 vouchers available to the 300 families. Families were locating apartments and receiving landlord approval at a rate of six a day. Only six weeks after the mass orientation, very low-income families had used all but eight of the 200 vouchers.

Results

The extravaganza expedited the usually lengthy lease-up process and quickly made 200 housing vouchers available to very low-income families in the community.

This program has changed the lives of Rainna Park, a single mother, and her three children aged 8, 7, and 2. Ms. Park had moved 18 times during the past two years while waiting to reach the top of the housing authority's waiting list. The lease-up extravaganza provided her with a town home, a job with a church distribution center, and a future for her family in a matter of weeks.

Contact: Jill Riddle, Salt Lake City Housing Authority, 1776 South West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
801-487-2161 x1209

 
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