The following editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
State officials should be commended for beginning to fix a broken — or at least damaged — public assistance housing system.
The turnover in public assistance housing has stagnated because the system discourages recipients from improving their income. If they make more money, they pay more for their apartments.
The new system will base public housing assistance on the market value of an apartment instead of a recipient’s income.
The system change is prompted by the number of able-bodied renters in subsidized apartments not transitioning out of assistance. It used to be the system had a three-year turnover rate, now it is eight years.
When transitioning does not take place, or the transition takes more than twice the time it did, that means a line of needy families develops and cannot be assisted. Alaska has thousands of families seeking housing assistance who cannot acquire it because of the sluggish system.
Alaska Housing will address the situation by increasing the percentage of the market value of apartments that renters pay over five years. By year five, renters will be required to pay 100 percent.
The elderly and the disabled will not be subject to the renewed effort to move renters into more lucrative opportunities in the workforce and out of public assistance.
But those who can work and choose not to will be encouraged to move along through the revised assistance system.
This revision will reemphasize that public assistance is not a way of life, but a hand up and out in a time of need.