Chester Housing Authority

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Delaware County Daily Times: Chester getting funds to help low-income families obtain housing

 WEST CHESTER —Fifty-six low-income households in Chester City will soon have the opportunity to find and lease a home in higher opportunity areas, thanks to a grant awarded to the Chester Housing Authority from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 “This grant represents a real chance for 56 families to find improved community amenities,” said CHA Executive Director Steven Fischer. “We feel very fortunate in that our application was one of only nine approved nationwide. I want to thank the Chester County Housing Authority for working with us on this regional grant.”


The Chester Housing Authority has partnered with the Housing Authority of Chester County in a program that will help families there living below the poverty line secure housing rather than being forced to live in locations impacted by high concentrations of subsidized housing. Chester County was one of nine housing authorities in the nation to be selected for the new Housing Choice Mobility Demonstration program.


"We are thrilled over this news as Chester County will be provided the funding to design and implement much needed strategies and actions to assist families in their quest to find homes in areas of high opportunity," said Dale Gravett, executive director of the Housing Authority of Chester County. "I appreciate the support of the HACC Board which approved our seeking participation in this program. And I also appreciate the support of the HACC staff that will be key to the implementation of our strategies."


HUD's new Housing Choice Voucher Mobility demonstration will provide more than 10,000 families in the nation with children better access to low-poverty neighborhoods with high-performing schools and other strong community resources.


Regions that were selected for funding represent diverse housing markets, population sizes, local laws regarding source-of-income nondiscrimination and experiences implementing housing mobility programs.


The Housing Choice Voucher Program (commonly called Section 8) offers families the chance to live in neighborhoods of their choice. Barriers to a successful choice of neighborhoods include such things as inability to save enough money for a security deposit, inadequate time given to find a unit, limited awareness of neighborhood amenities and, according to Gravett, the biggest challenge of all, the unwillingness of landlords to even consider renting to voucher holders.


As a result of this practice, vouchered residents are restricted to housing in certain areas of the county. The city of Coatesville is home to nearly 50 percent of Chester County vouchers holders, yet it contains only 2.6 percent of the county's total population.


Chester County partnered with the city of Chester in Delaware County to get the majority of the vouchers, as Gravett said he has not received no new vouchers for several years. The voucher award, Gravett said, is minimal with 666 nationally, and the notification letter from the Housing and Urban Development outlines the basic uses for the bulk of the award. HACC is the lead agency in the agreement with Chester City.


All told, the Housing Authority of Chester County will receive 18 vouchers or nearly $250,000, the city of Chester will get 56 vouchers, or just over $803,000, and program funds for mobility strategies will be funded to the tune of $3.4 million.


In a letter to Gravett, Daniel Bastarache, deputy assistant secretary for public housing and voucher programs said, "With your direct effort, the HVC Mobility Demonstration will help more vouchered families with children access areas of opportunity and help us learn what strategies are most effective at helping increase access to low poverty communities."


"Studies show that place matters, and access to educational opportunities and other resources create lasting impacts on life outcomes for children," said Dominique Blom, General Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian housing. "The Mobility Demonstration provides families the choice to life where they want to live and raise their children. This program will remove barriers to opportunity-rich communities for families across the country."


Chester County and the city of Chester are one of the smallest regions in the nation to earn the funds for the program, which include New Orleans, Minneapolis, Cleveland, New York and Los Angeles.