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Orange County Leaders Declare A Need For More Assisted Housing Options

A picture of a window with a for rent sign.
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Several major property management companies in Carrboro and Chapel Hill are no longer accepting federal housing assistance vouchers.  Housing assistance advocates say options for low-income families in the area are dwindling.

James Davis of the Orange County Housing Authority said at a press conference in Carrboro yesterday that there's a misconception that Section 8 recipients don't work, or that participating in the Section 8 program is difficult.

Davis said that the standards for participation are minimal, and the vouchers are as good as cash. He added that they allow people with diverse backgrounds and abilities to remain in their homes and maintain steady employment – even in low-paying jobs.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says some working families and people with disabilities are being forced to leave their homes. They sometimes have to move to a different city or county, which can make it harder to commute or get groceries.

“It is a vehicle for helping people of limited income thrive in our communities to become contributing... and remain contributing members to our quality of life.”

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said GSC Apartments notified the Orange County Housing Authority last June that its nine complexes in the towns would no longer participate in the federal program, citing “business reasons”. The move affects about 90 families.

GSC did not respond to requests for further comment.

At the event, Lavelle asked that property managers who have bowed out of the program reconsider. She also invited new landlords to join up, saying that the federal vouchers are as good as cash.

“I want to make sure everyone listening here today is aware that if they own a rental house or even an apartment, even if it's only one unit, that you too can go through a small amount of red tape with Orange County but have your unit approved as one that can be used by citizens who use these vouchers for payment.”

Lavelle invited prospective landlords to e-mail her directly.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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