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Renters struggle to use housing vouchers fast enough, but new policy will offer a fix

Charlotte tenants will now have more time to find a rental unit that accepts housing vouchers.

The Charlotte Housing Authority’s board of commissioners voted Tuesday to extend the time frame tenants have to secure housing before having to relinquish their vouchers. The time period has been extended from 120 to 180 days.

“We started looking at the numbers and seeing that it was taking people somewhere very close to 120 days to actually find a place,” Charlotte Housing Authority CEO Fulton Meachem said. “We felt like the additional 60 days would give people the opportunity to go out and search.”

Housing Choice vouchers are subsidies paid directly to landlords for low-income tenants, with the renter paying the remainder of the rent amount.

But several factors can make using a voucher difficult, including low vacancy rates and rising rents. North Carolina law does not require landlords to accept voucher tenants.

There are about 6,000 applicants in Charlotte on a waiting list for a voucher, also known as the Section 8 program. The extension will apply to the 210 voucher holders currently searching for housing.

Lucille Puckett, a former housing authority board member and mayoral candidate, spoke during the meeting in support of extending the voucher period. Her two daughters both struggled to secure housing before their vouchers expired, she said. One found a place “in the nick of time,” while the other’s expired.

After the meeting, Puckett said the extension is crucial, given the city’s affordable housing crisis.

The 120-day window for tenants, combined with Charlotte’s housing challenge, is “setting them up for failure in finding a home for their families. And then they snatch those vouchers away when they can’t (find one),” she said.

“Some of them have waited 10 years to get offered that voucher and then have it taken away in four months? I felt that wasn’t right.”

This work was made possible in part by grant funding from Report for America/GroundTruth Project and the Foundation For The Carolinas.

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