The need of Portlanders seem to be taking a back seat in the newest scandal surrounding housing vouchers. A spokesperson for Home Forward, which oversees issuing the vouchers in Portland, said in a statement: “We are treating this as an emergency and our staff is working hard to connect with applicants and issue the vouchers as efficiently as possible.”
In June, the federal government announced it was issuing 70,000 emergency housing vouchers to help Americans displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors. The Department of Housing and Urban Development said it was providing the emergency housing assistance effectively cash for rent “in order to assist individuals and families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking, or were recently homeless or have a high risk of housing instability.”
When HUD issued the vouchers in June, Home Forward (formerly known as the Housing Authority of Portland) got 476 of them to use across Multnomah County. But Home Forward has issued just 15 of the 476 vouchers the feds sent. Which means just 3% of the vouchers available locally have been put to work over the past six months. A spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden says Wyden is “deeply disappointed” at Home Forward’s lack of progress.
“Local housing officials should have started identifying recipients for these 476 vouchers back in June, and Sen. Wyden is deeply disappointed to find out that more of these available vouchers have still not been distributed to Oregonians desperate for housing,” Wyden spokesman Hank Stern added. “This distribution process should have happened months ago and he will continue to push on local officials to get these vital lifelines distributed immediately.”