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Proposal Would Allow Use of Vouchers for Shared Housing

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By Jorge Casuso

April 4, 2023 -- Section 8 vouchers could be used to rent rooms in shared housing under a proposed change to Santa Monica's housing administrative plan.

The change will be taken up on Tuesday by the City Council acting as the Board of the Santa Monica Housing Authority (SMHA), which administers some 1,675 rental assistance vouchers, most of them Section 8, to low-income households.

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The change was proposed in response to a comment from a Resident Advisory Board (RAB) member about expanding voucher opportunities to shared housing, staff said in a report to the Council.

"Shared housing would allow voucher holders to cohabitate and rent individual rooms in a household with non-voucher participants," according to the report from the newly created Housing and Human Services (CSD) Department.

"Staff understands the difficulties of securing housing in the private market and agrees that shared housing offers greater choice to voucher holders."

The SMHA Board, which includes two tenant representatives, will also take up a second administrative change to the current annual rent increase policy.

The change would "require landlords to affirmatively request rent increases at least 60-days in advance" and "notify tenants regarding rent increases, in addition to the SMHA’s existing (notification) practice."

Staff also received input about creating a home ownership program, applying for the Move to Work (MTW) program and restarting the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program.

The MTW program -- which is for Housing Authorities, not voucher participants -- "provides opportunities to design and test innovative, locally designed strategies to help residents find employment and become self-sufficient."

The goal of the FSS program "is for voucher participants to increase earned income, achieve economic stability, and reduce or eliminate their need for welfare assistance and rental subsidies."

The SMHA administered the program -- which must achieve a mandated number of graduates -- "for more than a decade, met and exceeded the federal mandate, and closed the program to new participants a few years ago."

The closure was due to "insufficient resources from HUD and limited staff capacity within the SMHA and supportive service agencies to effectively administer the program."

According to staff, the Housing Authority "does not currently have resources to create and administer a homeownership program, MTW program, or FSS program."

Tuesday's action is part of a yearly review that requires the Housing Authority to submit an Annual Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), update progress on the 5-Year Plan and submit any updates to the Administrative Plan.

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