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Governor proposes housing aid for victims

Posted: December 15, 2011 - 12:07am
Gov. Sean Parnell discusses his recent overseas trip in a speech to the Juneau World Affairs Council on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, in Juneau, Alaska. Parnell, during his first state-sponsored overseas trip traveled to Europe and Israel. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)  Becky Bohrer
Becky Bohrer
Gov. Sean Parnell discusses his recent overseas trip in a speech to the Juneau World Affairs Council on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, in Juneau, Alaska. Parnell, during his first state-sponsored overseas trip traveled to Europe and Israel. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell is proposing $1.3 million for housing aid for victims of domestic violence in Alaska.

Details of the program, which would be run through the Alaska Housing Finance Corp., or AHFC, are still being worked out. But Jim Gurke, director of AHFC’s public housing division, said Wednesday that it could help an estimated 150 families for a year. He also said that it’s in line with the governor’s overall effort to curb the domestic violence problem in Alaska.

As part of that effort, Parnell has also proposed such things as screening and services for children exposed to violence, continued aid to shelters and prevention programs and special supervision of domestic violence felons, intended to draw quick sanctions if those individuals indisputably violate probation.

The Legislature, which has been supportive of efforts to crack down on domestic violence and sexual assault, must approve any proposed spending.

The idea for the housing aid came as AHFC looked at who was applying for a subsidy program for low-income individuals and families known as Housing Choice Voucher program, or Section 8. Gurke said victims displaced by domestic violence are among those AHFC serves, but there’s a wait list for Section 8 housing, and very little turnover.

While the criteria for qualifying for the new program haven’t been decided yet, he said an alternative worth discussing is a time limit on aid, perhaps setting a two-year time limit. He also envisions there will be income requirements similar to those under the Housing Choice program.

The limit for aid in that program is 50 percent of the area median income. That’s $27,940 for a family of four in Alaska. Recipients also contribute to their rent.

Gurke said AHFC working with service providers and the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in putting a state aid program together.

Saralyn Tabachnick, executive director of AWARE in Juneau, said finding new ways to address housing concerns is important. AWARE provides shelter and support services for women and children who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, and it’s intended to be a 30-day program.

But Tabachnick said it often takes longer than that to find housing. Her group is raising money to build a longer-term facility that would provide shelter for up to 18 months.

“When people are working so hard to live lives free of violence, the more the community can do to support that, the better,” she said.

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