Olmsted county hosts housing choice voucher landlord summit

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(ABC 6 News) – Wednesday, both landlords currently involved in the HCV program and ones who aren’t were invited to the HCV Landlord Summit to talk about the difference the program can make to the community.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in partnership with Olmsted County Housing hosted the summit.

The Housing Choice Voucher program is intended to help people find an affordable place to live and allow them to thrive.

“So, really just having an affordable place to live is so important for everybody. That kind of foundational element of being able to thrive,” said Olmsted County Housing Director Dave Dunn.

The HCV program used to be known as Section 8. Its a rental assistance program funded by the department of housing and urban development that is then administered by the county.

It allows people who struggle to afford their rent to only pay 30 percent of their income towards housing and the rest is picked up by the government. But in Rochester, there’s a problem.

“Yeah I mean I think if you look you see that rents are going up pretty dramatically home prices are going up pretty dramatically,” said Dunn.
Only a fraction of people that qualify for the program can take part. The county has roughly 850 voucher recipients. And it admits that number should be higher.

Only 1 in 4 people who qualify for the program receive a voucher. There isn’t enough affordable housing. Which is what this event is working to change.

“For that program to be successful we need to bring in landlords. And what we really wanted to do today was build those partnerships with landlords and property managers across the county and the region,” said Dunn.

Heather Barness works for Velair Property Management. Her company already participates in the program and encourages others to join.

“It takes a village to grow someone and climb that latter and this is one small part. Even though housing is a big part of someone’s life, it can really be impactful,” said Barness

From a business perspective she believes it’s a no brainer. “It really is a guaranteed source of income. Even during the pandemic, some people lost jobs and couldn’t pay their portion of rent, the Olmsted County HRA was still able to pay that and could count on that as income,” said Barness.

Housing officials hope these other landlords see that. And see the impact they could have providing a home to someone who needs one.

Like the most powerful thing for me, is you walk somebody in their home and they start crying. You making a really big difference,” said Barness.