Door County Housing Authority Gave Over $760,000 in 2012 Rental Assistance

Sixty families began receiving rental assistance payments from the Door County Housing Authority (DCHA) in 2012, while 70 families stopped receiving payments, according to the organization’s recently released annual report.

DCHA Director Beverly Luethge said those numbers are pretty typical for the program.

“Some people are surprised and ask if people really go off the program,” said Luethge. “But every month we have people go off the program for one reason or another.”

The DCHA is a federally-funded organization that distributes rental assistance to families, elderly, disabled, and single people throughout Door County, provided their income is low enough to qualify. In 2012, the DCHA provided $760,722 in assistance payments to between 224 to 241 families a month.

The total amount of money the DCHA provides has been rising since 2008, from $676,334, but leveled off this year at a number comparable to 2011’s $763,519. The average monthly payment per rental, however, continued to climb – rising from $232 in 2008 to $274 in 2012.

Luethge said increases in rent and utility prices have driven monthly payments up, although utility prices are beginning to stabilize.

“We don’t have a lot of high paying jobs in Door County,” said Luethge. “This just makes being able to be in a rental affordable and easier for a lot of people, especially for elderly people.”

Luethge said the majority of the DCHA’s clients are elderly or disabled people trying to continue living on their own, but some of the month-to-month fluctuations in the number of renters served can be explained by Door County’s seasonal nature.

“We’re very unique compared to a lot of other housing authorities because a lot of our clients have a seasonal income,” said Luethge.

Another thing that makes Door County’s program unique, according to Luethge, is that a majority of the landlords receiving the rental assistance payments live in the community, so the money used to assist low-income renters stays local.

And while the program is obviously good for renters, it’s a boon to landlords as well.

“The majority of owners really like the program because they get our check each month and because the tenant has less money to pay so [the landlord’s] more likely to get that check every month,” said Luethge.

The majority of those served by the program rent in Sturgeon Bay, a fact that Luethge chalks up to both the availability of medical services for elderly and disabled renters and the affordability of housing for working families.

“That’s where a lot of people want to live,” said Luethge. “It’s more affordable in Sturgeon Bay. Everything combined makes it so Sturgeon Bay is where we help the most people.”

The program can also assist those who qualify with actually purchasing a house of their own, although Luethge said the process isn’t easy.

“If you’re eligible for our program, getting a bank loan is going to be the difficult part,” said Luethge.

The DCHA doesn’t have the funds to help everyone seeking rental assistance, and there’s currently a waiting list of about 50 people waiting to get into the program.

Luethge estimates it’ll be about three to six months before those people could get into the program, but said the program’s exact budget for this year is up in the air because of the sequester and the federal government’s inability to actually hammer out a budget.