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Two and a half dozen more struggling Sonoma County households are getting a chance to secure affordable housing.

Earlier this month, county officials formally accepted and allocated more federal funding for a housing voucher program. The money lets the county issue 261 housing vouchers, 30 more than last year.

The program isn't open to just anyone though, explained Martha Cheever, director of the Sonoma County Housing Authority.

"The important point is that they have to be homeless, at risk of homelessness or at risk of institutionalization, like a mental health institution."

They also must be between the ages of 18 and 62. Other programs are available for youth and seniors.

Typically, those with federal housing vouchers pay 30 percent of their monthly adjusted income toward rent, with the voucher covering the remainder.

Cheever said the county has improved how it handles vouchers. Nonprofit agencies are tasked with helping recipients locate housing.

"That program is highly successful, it's almost 100 percent utilized. Because folks have assistance locating units and paying their deposit," she said.

The county has also directly reached out to landlords through the internet with a "housing connector program," pairing property owners that have extra room with voucher holders needing housing. Cheever said the effort has yielded 87 dwellings so far.

Despite additional resources, help isn't available on demand.

"We don't have an open wait list at the moment, but on our website we have a link that someone can sign up for and get an email notification when our wait list is open. We do anticipate opening our housing choice voucher wait list probably late fall," Cheever said.

Locally, the list is being managed to reduce false hopes. Los Angeles's waitlist was closed for half a decade after close to 188,000 households applied for 20,000 vouchers.

In Sonoma County, its a different story.  "We can pretty close to guarantee that everyone will have an opportunity to apply for a voucher within two years," Cheever said.







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