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Section 8 vouchers could be used anywhere

Published: Monday, June 16, 2014 4:21 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, June 16, 2014 11:03 p.m. CDT

CARY – With Pedcor Investments proposing to build a low-rise workforce housing apartment complex at First and Pearl streets, some people have been asking whether the complex would become "Section 8 housing."

One resident, William Morgan in an email to Village Administrator Chris Clark, called the proposed project Section 8 Housing and said the project would have negative effects on the village.

"This is detrimental to the community [as] there is already low-income housing right next door to where they are looking to build this," Morgan wrote.

Julie Biel Claussen, the executive director of McHenry County Housing Authority, said there are misconceptions when it comes to publicly assisted housing.

Many people think of the high-rise apartments such as the former Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor Homes ran by the Chicago Housing Authority, when they hear of Section 8 housing, Claussen said.

"We've never seen anything like that in McHenry County," Claussen said.

There are two types of public housing: the type owned by the housing authority, and housing subsidized by a housing choice voucher.

The McHenry County Housing Authority does own 23 single-family houses around the county that it rents out. It also owns apartment complexes in Huntley and Richmond for senior citizens and disabled people.

The housing choice vouchers allow people to choose where they want to live, whether it be an apartment, single family house, or townhouse. The units are inspected by the housing authority to make sure they meet federal housing standards.

Claussen said the waiting list in McHenry County for a housing choice vouchers is four-and-a-half years long.

"That is an indication there is a need for housing that costs a little bit less than the market rate," Claussen said.

"A lot of participants in the program do work, but don't make enough money to afford a market rate apartment," Claussen added. "A lot are elderly and disabled."

To receive a voucher, a person cannot have a drug conviction, two felonies within the past four years, and can't be on the sex offender list, Claussen said.

Claussen said someone who receives rental assistance could be anyone's neighbor, and they're not scary people.

"This might be the person who is serving you at Starbucks," Claussen said.

Under the voucher system, the tenant pays 30 percent of their income toward rent. The rest of the rent is paid for by the voucher.

The program can be attractive to landlords, because "you're going to get at least a portion of rent because the federal government is paying for it," Claussen said.

Pedcor Senior Vice President Mike Smith said the company is required to accept housing choice vouchers, but those residents would have to pass the company's background checks, including annual criminal background checks and sex offender lists checks.

"However, regardless of whether they [have] a voucher, they must be qualified under our other criteria," Smith said.

Voucher distribution

Low-rise/apartments - 615 vouchers

Single family detached houses - 184 vouchers

Row houses or town houses - 51 vouchers

Semi-detached houses - 7 vouchers

Manufactured house - 1 voucher

Source: McHenry County Housing Authority

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