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‘I’ve looked everywhere’: Ohio mother struggles to find rental that accepts HUD vouchers

A housing assistance voucher could be life-changing, but for many families, there’s nowhere to use it.

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — The affordable housing crisis presses on in central Ohio.

One source of help is a voucher program funded by the federal government. But right now in Franklin County, 15,000 people are waiting for one.

Samantha Musick was one of those people waiting for years, until almost a month ago.

"It just feels safe and good,” Musick said when asked why she loves where she lives. “And my kids have flourished since being here. So much from the schools from the neighborhood."

As a mother, it’s her will to provide the best for her children.

"Right now I never get time to spend with my kids, you know, because I'm working so much because it's just so important to me that we stay here,” she said.

Musick moved a few years ago from Columbus to Westerville.

"It's just night and day from where they were."

Her oldest is 16. He cooks dinner and helps with homework after school. That's because Musick works two jobs. She is a social worker by day working with youth. Most nights of the week she also works at a sports bar, “just to make ends meet."

It's time that Musick would buy if should could.

“This funding would make it to where I can work one job like normal and be home with my family, cook dinners and spend time with them and do homework with them. I can't do any of that right now because I'm consistently at work,” she explained.

After 16 years on wait list for a housing assistance voucher, she got one.

But now she's running into roadblock after roadblock.

“They don't want to take it, a lot of people just don't understand it,” she said. “The houses that I do find are in neighborhoods that I would never go back to that I would never put my children in."

It's one part of the affordable housing crisis in central Ohio.

"Today there's about 54,000 people in Franklin County that are paying more than 30% of their income towards rent which is considered not to be affordable,” said Scott Scharlach, Chief Operating Officer Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.

Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority issues the vouchers based on federal funding available.

“And with the vouchers that we've leased we have more people on the street that are looking for units than units are available today,” Scharlach said.

Needing more landlords to accept the vouchers, CMHA now offers cash incentives for landlords who participate in the voucher program.

“With that landlord incentive program we already paid out more than a million dollars to landlords in the community,” Scharlach said.

It appears to be working.

"CMHA has doubled the size of our portfolio that CMHA owns and operates in Franklin County,” he explained. “In the last five years we went from about 1,800 units to about 4,500 units."

But it's still not enough. Both supply and time are short.

For recipients like Samantha Musick, there is a deadline to use the voucher.

“But I will lose it if it means coming out of Westerville or going back to a neighborhood that my children aren't safe in," she said. "I will let it go for that."

Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority has also partnered with RH Brown and Company to help connect tenants and landlords for free. Their relocation consultants can be reached by calling 614-421-6333 or by emailing rhbrownco@msn.com.

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