Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland
By Robin Goist
AKRON, Ohio — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $484,580 to the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority for a housing voucher program for people with disabilities and their families.
The grant will assist 80 individuals and their families, many of whom are on fixed incomes of about $800 a month, to rent accessible housing, according to Brian Gage, executive director of AMHA.
A family can quickly be put into an uncomfortable situation of deciding between rent and other family needs,” Gage said, speaking at a news conference at Reach Opportunity Center in Akron’s Summit Lake neighborhood.
“This new program provides some relief to those families, minimizing what might be the greatest cost that they face each month, which is their rent.”
The 80 families participating in the Akron program will seek housing that’s best suited for their needs and will pay 30% of their monthly income on rent, Gage said. AMHA will pay the landlord the remaining amount through the HUD grant.
Last month, HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced $131.3 million in grants for 325 housing authorities across the country to provide housing vouchers for 15,363 non-elderly people with disabilities, according to Pam Ashby, director of the HUD Cleveland field office.
“The Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher Program helps to further the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to help persons with disabilities live in the most integrated, private setting as possible,” Ashby said.
In Ohio, $3.9 million in grants will go toward housing vouchers for 727 people with disabilities, Ashby said.
Within the city of Akron, there are 17,000 individuals, adults between the ages of 18 and 64, with disabilities,” said James Hardy, Deputy Mayor for Integrated Development and Assistant to Mayor Dan Horrigan. “Of those, almost 7,000 are living below the poverty level. We’ve got some serious work to do, but today is an incredible start.”
Greta Johnson, chief of staff for Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, said the program will not only benefit 80 people with disabilities, but also their families and communities.
“This is life-changing stuff,” Johnson said. “This isn’t just numbers on a page.”
In order to receive the HUD grant, housing authorities had to demonstrate that there is a need for affordable and accessible housing in the community, commit to using at least 80% of the vouchers within one year of the award and partner with community organizations for people with disabilities, Ashby said.
John Trunk, superintendent of Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board, said access to affordable housing helps to lessen one of several barriers that his organization faces in its pursuit of inclusion, independence and opportunities for people with disabilities.
We are thrilled that AMHA’s new voucher program will benefit so many people with disabilities and their families who have housing needs,” Trunk said. “Our hope is that it’s the start of many things to come.”
Aimee Wade, associate director of clinical services of the Summit County ADM Board, lauded officials for their collaboration on the program, which will help the board’s clients who have mental-health and substance abuse disorders.
Currently more than 20,000 families are waiting for AMHA housing assistance, including about 4,000 families with a member with disabilities who would qualify for the voucher program, according to AMHA. The housing authority will contact eligible families over the coming weeks, Gage said.
In October, HUD announced a $5.6 million grant to Summit County and a $4.6 million grant to the city of Akron to address homes to lead hazards and other health concerns.
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Learn about other HUD grants that aid public housing programs:
Learn more about housing voucher programs: