WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — On Tuesday, the Wichita City Council voted to approve the 2024 Annual Agency Plan and 2024-2028 Capital Fund Grant Five-Year Action Plan Estimate to address housing needs in the community.
A topic of discussion was the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.
Currently, all 3,420 vouchers are being used, and over 5,000 are on the waitlist.
At Tuesday’s Wichita City Council meeting, the housing and community services department asked the council to approve changes to policies to meet regulations and local needs.
One of those changes is a reduction in the minimum rent people have to pay while using a HCV.
The city approved changing it from $50 to $0.
“This really came into play as we saw this year we’ve seen so many people coming in from homelessness because of the VASH vouchers or the homeless preference vouchers, and oftentimes they come in with no income to begin with, so when you have someone who comes in with no income and asking them to pay the minimum $50 rent is an impossible task,” said Sally Stang, City of Wichita Housing and Community Services director.
Another change is the time frame people have to find a place once they receive a HCV.
When not all the vouchers were being used, the city made it so people had 120 days to find a place to live.
The city wants to change the term to 60 days due to the high demand for vouchers and issues it ran into with people not quickly or actively searching for housing.
“It will help make sure we are staying engaged with people who are looking. It also lights a fire to make sure that they are actively looking for housing,” said Stang.
Even when people get the vouchers, there are still many hurdles.
Stang said 200 people currently have vouchers but are still on the streets searching for housing.
Stang said nearly 40,000, both rental and to own, additional units are needed to end the housing crisis.
“We have the vouchers. Do we have the housing?” Amanda Meyers, Wichita Family Crisis Center executive director, asked
The Wichita Family Crisis Center is one community partner that helps those in need when they have a voucher.
“We really start working on that from day one when somebody comes into shelter because when they are able to move and even live independently, then it makes room for the next victim that needs services,” said Meyers.
Meyers said a big problem can be finding an affordable unit available for their clients but also ensuring they can get to and from work and access childcare and transportation.
The city also faces the issue of landlords not accepting vouchers.
“If somebody does have a voucher, finding a landlord who’ll take those, but I know we are working on it,” said Meyers.
Council member Brandon Johnson said he is doing what he can to meet the goal of more people in permanent housing.
“I actively try to seek out land and connect people with those property owners to build homes. That is the biggest way are going to get out of this crisis,” said Johnson.
These changes approved Tuesday now go to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Stang said they are expected to approve it in January.
In the next few weeks, Wichita City Council will vote on a Retaliatory Evictions Ordinance.
Johnson said this will help protect tenants who may be afraid of retaliation when asking landlords to fix issues in units that may not be up to par.