The city of Bowling Green is looking to help an additional 100 people with disabilities pay for housing.
On Tuesday, the Bowling Green City Commission approved applying for 100 additional Section 8 housing vouchers from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development to be specifically used for people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 62, or families with a qualifying disabled person.
Section 8 pays a portion of housing costs based on the voucher holder’s income.
Brent Childers, the city’s director of Neighborhood and Community Services, said such targeted housing vouchers “are the future of the (federal housing assistance) program.”
In total, the city has 616 housing vouchers through various programs, but with a waiting list of about 750, it can take up to 31/2 years to get a voucher.
“We hope the 100 new vouchers ... will help cut down the list of people waiting for assistance,” Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said.
Childers said there are about 170 people on that waiting list who could qualify for the new vouchers.
The city decided to apply for 100 vouchers because the federal government mandates that the new vouchers see at least 80 percent utilization rate in the first year.
A recent housing study the city commissioned showed there is a large demand for affordable housing and housing assistance in the city.
The study showed that more than 45 percent of renter-occupied households in the city are considered cost-burdened by federal standards (pay more than 30 percent of their income toward housing) and 25 percent are severely cost-burdened (pay more than 25 percent of their income toward housing).
The data show a “serious, pent-up demand for more affordable housing” in the city, Bowen National Research President Patrick Bowen told city officials in a June city commission meeting where the study was unveiled.
That reality is in contrast to the record number of apartments being built in the city in recent years.
“What we are seeing is an incredible amount of growth in the rental market,” Childers said.
But that has not meant lower rents. Instead, the higher-end units being built have raised rental costs overall.
Housing is “taking more and more of (people’s) income,” Childers said.
With the lack of affordable housing and more than 15,000 people in the city living below the federal poverty level, Bowling Green could use thousands of vouchers, but “we have to wait until the opportunity is available,” Childers said.
It is up to HUD to decide when, and how many, vouchers will be available for cities to request.
Another continuing issue is that some landlords do not want Section 8 renters.
“We continue to have that challenge,” Childers said, adding that the city is willing to explain the program to landlords who may have misgivings.
“Anybody who is interested in working with us ... obviously we’d love to sit down and talk to them,” Childers said.
The city expects to hear before the end of this year whether it is awarded the additional vouchers, which it would give out starting Feb. 1.