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More than 26,000 people waiting for rental assistance in Columbus

In the past six years, the funding from the federal government has only allowed the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to increase its rental assistance vouchers by 333.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - James Snowden says he feels "truly blessed" to live at Poindexter Place, a community for low-income seniors run by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.

"A person who don’t have this situation, it may be kinda stressful, and what have you, for them, especially if they’re on wait lists," Snowden said. "And I do understand, from time to time, I’ve talked to some people that said they’ve been on the wait list for several months."

In fact, there are more than 26,000 people currently waiting for rental assistance through the Housing Choice Vouchers program.

The challenge is multi-faceted. Columbus is a growing city in need of more affordable housing options, and the federal government is not meeting the need with its funding.

According to CMHA, the funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has only allowed the agency to provide 333 additional vouchers from 2013 to 2019.

"From the standpoint of HUD funding, I don’t see that growing on the horizon and increasing the number of vouchers that we have, but I do see us to continue with the plan of growing our portfolio and working with partners to increase the affordable housing in Columbus," said Chad Meek, vice president of the Housing Choice Vouchers program for CMHA. "It is of a dire need."

Meek says the agency is doing what it can to fill the gap by working with community partners and increasing housing options.

He pointed to Mayor Andrew Ginther's announcement last month about the creation of the $100 million Housing Action Fund to address the affordable housing shortage with the help of corporate partners.

CMHA also is offering more options by increasing its units by 45 percent during the past six years. CMHA now has more than 3,500 units spread throughout 31 properties.

"Prior to putting in the new plan and the new model, some people could be on the waiting list for three, four, five years and still never get a voucher at that point, and we want to get vouchers in the hands of people of the most need as soon as we possibly can," Meek said. "I believe that’s the Columbus way. We are all trying to work together as partners. We’re all trying to find a solution to the problem. And affordable housing is a problem, and it takes a community to kinda figure that out."

For more information on CMHA and rental assistance, you can visit the website.