Atlanta Housing’s (AH) board of commissioners on Wednesday passed a resolution paving the way for the distribution of 202 emergency housing vouchers for people whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), thanks to the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the new emergency housing voucher program expands upon AH’s federally supported Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP). As of late May, the HCVP had more than 24,000 applicants on its waiting list. 

Wednesday’s action links AH with the City of Atlanta’s Continuum of Care homeless services network — namely, nonprofit Partners for HOME — to determine who should receive the additional 202 vouchers.

The new emergency housing voucher program will prioritize Atlantans who are experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness or fleeing — or attempting to flee — domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking, according to AH materials. 

Unlike AH’s existing voucher assistance program, this one will be administered entirely by Partners for HOME, which will identify people in need.

The program, according to Partners for HOME’s Vice President of Development and Communications Summer Duperon, should begin in earnest on July 31. After which time, she said, “those meeting the priority populations, as defined by HUD and in the memorandum of understanding, will be eligible to begin the voucher application process.”

AH and Continuum of Care leaders have until late 2023 to issue all the vouchers, although AH CEO Eugene Jones said the need for housing assistance is so dire that distributing the vouchers should be no problem. 

“We’re going to try to move them as quickly as we can,” he said in an interview with Atlanta Civic Circle. “The need is there; it’s not like we have to go looking for people.”

The new program is yet another federally backed initiative aimed at housing people as the pandemic ravages the economy, although housing experts still fear the end of a nationwide eviction moratorium — set to expire after Saturday — will still spur a swell of evictions the likes of which the country has never seen. 

Georgia is anticipated to be hit by the wave of evictions worse than most states in the U.S. — 40 percent of renters here worry they could be displaced in coming weeks — prompting local leaders and candidates for public office to wrangle with the disparity between drastic rises in housing costs and much slower wage increases.

Check back next week for information on the program’s online application portal.

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