Part of a healthy lifestyle for Utah residents is having reliable and safe housing. While Utah has significantly reduced the amount of chronic homelessness in the state, many other residents struggle to find affordable housing. Utah offers several housing assistance programs designed to help those who need subsidized housing, rental assistance or temporary help in order to become financially self-sufficient. Utah also provides housing for those affected by natural disasters and for those who are fleeing violent situations. Youth housing and housing for seniors is also available through state agencies. Most housing in Utah requires the applicant to qualify based on income but may also require that the applicants seek better work situations or attend a certain amount of counseling classes. The following lists the most popular housing assistance programs in the state and who qualifies for them. Most housing programs are in high demand and there is quite often a waiting list.
Housing Choice Voucher Program in Utah
Utah utilizes the federal housing choice voucher program, called Section 8, to provide low-income families, as well as the disabled and the elderly, access to affordable and safe housing within the private market. Program participants can secure their own housing within the community as long as it meets the program’s guidelines for standard of quality. Once an applicant qualifies for housing assistance in UT, the local public housing authority (PHA) works with the individual or family to secure housing in the private sector. The beneficiary must contact the owner of the rental unit himself and ask if the landlord will agree to rent under the program. This can also be extended to the family’s own, and current, home.
Once housing is secured and has been inspected, then the housing subsidy is paid on the family’s behalf directly to the landlord by the PHA. Whatever the difference is between the subsidy and the price of the rental, the family is expected to pay. Eligibility is determined by the annual gross income and family size based on the median income of the area, which may not exceed 50 percent. Median income levels can fluctuate from one county to the next. If the PHA can assist a family immediately, then it will do so. Otherwise, the family is placed on a waiting list. Some PHA offices give preference to certain groups, such as homeless families, those who are paying more than fifty percent of their income for rent or those who have been involuntarily displaced due to violence or natural disaster. Applications can be submitted through local PHA offices or online through local PHA office sites.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Utah
TANF is a national program that all the U.S. states participate in. The program is designed to provide short-term assistance to families who find themselves in financial crisis or temporary episode of need. The funds that are issued are not designed to be long-term, extend beyond four months or to meet ongoing or recurrent needs. The family’s income must meet, but not exceed, the 200 percent level of the federal poverty guidelines. Eligible families must be legal residents or U.S. citizens, and there must be dependent children under the age of 18 living with a caregiver (relative, parent, or legal guardian). Funds are issued through a debit card to qualifying families. The states are given wide latitude in developing the design of the program, the amount of assistance payments, the types of services offered and the type of benefits extended. Most programs expect at least one parent seek job training or better employment.
HIV/AIDS Housing in Utah
Utah residents who are living with AIDS or HIV are offered housing. Many who are battling this illness have catastrophic medical bills which often leave them without financial resources to afford a home. Those who are sick are often unable to continue to work, which can result in homelessness. The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) offers funding for organizations who will extend housing to this medically-needy demographic.
Public Housing Projects in Utah
Project based housing vouchers are part of the housing choice voucher program, but they are tied to a specific location. The difference between this program and the tenant-based program is the ability to choose the housing. While project-based housing participants can select between approved project housing that is available, tenant-based voucher holders can choose housing from the private market.
Youth Futures in Utah
Thousands of teens face homelessness each year in Utah and end up sleeping in the wilderness areas or on the streets. Youth Futures is a nonprofit organization that works with the state of Utah to provide safe shelter, guidance and a wide range of support services to at-risk youth. The goal of the program is to provide life skills, to re-unite teens with their families if it is desired and to assist them in becoming self-sufficient. In 2016, there were many teens who took advantage of this program, many with children of their own.
Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) in Utah
Working with the Veterans Affairs department, HUD and public housing authorities in Utah have many housing units set aside specifically for veterans. In 2016, there were many homeless veterans in Utah. Many of those veterans were able to qualify for transitional housing or emergency shelters.