Safe affordable housing has become a big concern over the last year because of the lack of units available. As the number of available units decreases, RTH has found it increasingly difficult to transfer clients into other programs such as Section 8 or Public Housing and even private rental units. When landlords have low vacancy rates they are able to tighten screening criteria. This makes it difficult for many of the clients RTH serves because of poor rental, credit, and criminal histories that are often present. Even the local HRA’s and Section 8 program have tightened screening criteria, making it especially difficult for those with drug convictions. This has affected the number of clients RTH can serve because turnover is low. If some of the area projects such as Mesabi Nugget and Polymet take off, it is expected that the influx of construction workers will tighten the rental market even more and RTH clients will become even more dependent upon RTH’s good working relationships with area landlords.
In addition, a tighter rental market also means that landlords are more likely to raise prices on units. This has already begun to happen, especially when Section 8′s payment standard was raised this year coupled with rising fuel costs. At this time RTH is only allowed to charge HUD grants for 2005 fair market rent rates which are quite a bit lower than current rates. This has a negative effect on RTH because vital program income from incoming rents that was previously used to supplement other deficiency areas must be used to cover these higher rents.
RTH plans to continue to advocate for the homeless population by meeting regularly with other agencies with similar interests. These meetings allow RTH to share concerns and brainstorm ideas on how to alleviate some of the ongoing trends. RTH also plans to continue to actively seek out other sources of assistance to help alleviate expected shortfalls.