The Rock Island Housing Authority (RIHA) announced January 7 that it has received Housing Choice Vouchers for the remaining 48 families residing at the Valley Homes public-housing complex in Rock Island, giving residents the ability to relocate to housing owned by private landlords. Valley Homes is scheduled to be torn down next year.

RIHA Executive Director Susan Anderson said that she is uncertain at this point whether there will be enough landlords who accept Housing Choice Vouchers - also known as Section 8 - by the time of demolition. If there are Valley Homes residents who cannot find private housing, Anderson said, they will be placed in other public-housing units such as Manor Homes, Lincoln Homes, Sunset Heights, or Spenser Towers. Placement in other public housing throughout the Quad Cities is another option.

Housing Choice Vouchers are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and have been allocated for each displaced Valley Homes family. The vouchers are good for a portion of rent payments and can be used for any participating apartment in the Quad Cities.

HUD gave RIHA $263,844 in voucher money strictly for displaced Valley Homes families. Distribution of that money is based on family bedroom size, Anderson said. (For greater detail regarding Housing Choice Vouchers, and the demolition of Valley Homes, see "New Rock Island Housing Authority Homes Represent the First New Public Housing in 22 Years," River Cities' Reader Issue 499, October 20-26, 2004.)

Anderson said the vouchers were distributed on January 11 and are valid for 120 days, with the possibility of two 120-day extensions. She also said that RIHA is hoping that displaced families are relocated by December 2005.

The value of housing vouchers varies depending on apartment size and a person's income. Monthly rent for qualifying apartments can be as high as $621 for a one-bedroom unit and as high as $981 for a five-bedroom unit. The vouchers pay the difference between the rent and 30 percent of a family's adjusted gross income.

In addition to the vouchers, RIHA also provides moving allowances, ranging from $530 for a two-bedroom unit to $740 for a five-bedroom residence. Anderson said that $75 for phone and cable is also provided for each family.

RIHA plans to demolish Valley Homes in 2006, although project funding from the federal government has not yet been allocated.

The housing authority is in the process of applying for a $20-million HOPE VI grant for the revitalization of the Valley Homes area. Anderson said that only six grants will be awarded at $20 million apiece this year, the lowest number in the history of the HOPE VI program. Anderson said that she is uncertain about the number of organizations that have applied for the HOPE VI grants. The announcement of award recipients is scheduled for June.

If RIHA is awarded the grant, it will provide funding for Valley Homes demolition as well as for revitalization of the neighborhood in which the complex is located.

According to Anderson, RIHA plans to build 47 houses to replace the Valley Homes apartments - 37 of which will be on the site of or near the current public-housing complex. Of those, six will be subsidized renter-based units, and 31 will be sold at market rate; the remaining 10 homes will be built throughout the city of Rock Island.

Construction of these new homes is expected to occur over the next five years.

RIHA is looking for landlords who are willing to participate in their Housing Choice Voucher program. Those interested should contact Lisa at (309)788-0825.

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