Matthew victims struggle to find rental housing

Section 8 stigma cited

By Mike Gellatly -

LUMBERTON — Hundreds of families displaced by Hurricane Matthew still are looking for homes in Robeson County, and local officials are worried that some are stymied because of distrust of certain government programs.

Rental properties are being sought to place some of the families, said Sheila Oxendine, interim director of housing services for the Lumberton Housing Authority, and federal money from the housing choice voucher program — better known as Section 8 — is available. The program is designed to help the elderly, disabled and low-income families to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.

“I hate that there are any negative thoughts about Section 8 program,” Oxendine said. “I feel like a lot of landlords have misconceptions. We don’t hinder a landlord from doing anything.”

Section 8 vouchers pay for up to 105 percent of the fair market value of a rental property, but that covers a portion of utility payments. The exact amount is calculated with consideration to the price of rent, utilities and how much the individual earns.

“I’ve got 102 vouchers out there. I’ll do good to house 50 people,” Oxendine said.

“In the event that they fail to pay, a landlord has every right to file warnings, charge a fee for late rent or file for an eviction,” Oxendine said. “All Section 8 is is a housing assistance program. Everything else must comply with the lease and the landlord.”

The Pembroke Housing Authority and the Housing Authority of Lumberton are looking for available rental units,

Two of Lumberton’s largest rental property brokers, Century 21 — The Real Estate Center and Re/Max, both accept Section 8 voucher holders. However, neither agency has a great number of properties available. Century 21 property manager Teela Lowery said her office only has four properties to rent as of Thursday, and none of those are registered as properties for families with vouchers.

Landlords are asked to register with the agencies and their properties can be added to a list distributed to those seeking accommodation.

For homes to be registered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, they must pass a housing quality standards inspection. The annual inspection aims to make sure that the home secure and free of hazards such as lead paint.

There also appear to be a lack of available rental units. Hurricane Matthew flooded thousands of people out of their homes and left thousands of properties damaged or destroyed.

“Everyone cannot be housed if they stick to Robeson County,” Oxendine said.

Landlords with vacancies are asked to contact the housing authority to be added to their directory of available units.

Many of those still homeless are from public housing. This week it was announced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that $1.725 million has been approved for for rehabilitation work for units managed by the Lumberton Housing Authority.

Section 8 stigma cited

By Mike Gellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

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