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Housing authority commits vouchers to Jeremiah Program

February 21, 2019 GMT

Twenty federal housing vouchers are being committed to Jeremiah Program efforts emerging in Rochester.

The Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority board unanimously agreed Tuesday to dedicate the Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as Section 8 vouchers, to the program, which hopes to break ground this summer

“I can tell you from the families that we are serving that it can’t happen soon enough,” said JoMarie Morris, executive director of the Rochester Jeremiah Program. “Many of them are really struggling with housing.”

The Jeremiah Program plans to build a 64,836-square-foot, 40-apartment campus and on-site child development center on land near the intersection of Valleyhigh Drive Northwest and 19th Street.

The nonprofit program works to address issues of affordable housing, early childhood education, intergenerational poverty and development among families headed by low-income single mothers. The Rochester program is an extension of efforts in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as other states.

Morris said 20 years of experience has demonstrated the ability to move families off public assistance programs. She said 80 percent of families are able to put government assistance behind them within five years.

The 20 dedicated vouchers are part of the 556 federal vouchers approved in the county, according to Michele Merxbauer, Olmsted County housing program manager.

Susan Strandberg, a community development officer with Three Rivers, which is assisting the Jeremiah Program, said the 15-year commitment of the housing vouchers will help the program ensure it covers costs associated with reducing rents for the single parents and children who will occupy the planned complex.

The Jeremiah Program charges participants 30 percent of their incomes for rent, which is expected to average $200 per month for the local program.

“The rental assistance for half the units helps us a long way toward covering the deficits,” Strandberg said.

Strandberg said that without the federal waivers, the Jeremiah Program would need to raise more funds to guarantee the cost of renting the apartments was covered.

By dedicating the vouchers to the Jeremiah Program, the county is assuring they will stay with the future apartment complex, rather than moving with the families.

In other business, the HRA board:

• Approved plans to work on a pilot program to help mitigate risks for property managers willing to rent to people with imperfect credit, criminal and rental histories. The project is expected to start with 10 people who qualify for federal housing vouchers.