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Significant Changes at Family Promise and the Housing Market

The UUCBV’s next Family Promise week is coming up – March 11 – 18, 2023. Currently, Family Promise (FP) does not have families in the program. Phebe Simmons, Director of Family Promise (FP), says that calls are coming in, but the parents (so far) are not a fit for their program. Because FP temporarily houses children, they must be cautious about whom they admit into their program. I will let you know if a family is admitted during our church week.

On February 20th, Phebe Simmons held a Volunteer Coordinator Meeting on ZOOM. Molly and I attended. Phebe discussed significant changes at FP. The changes are due to major housing and housing assistance changes nationwide.

In the past, all FP families were eligible and received housing vouchers to start over in our community. Their last families remained in the shelter for about four months with housing assistance but had difficulty finding accommodations. If families are not making a livable wage, they cannot afford to live in Bryan-College Station. Landlords are asking for a monthly income that is 2.5 times the rent. For some of these situations, FP may pay for the family’s transportation to an area of the country where the clients have family and a strong support network to help them. FP continues to follow up on families that exited the program in their two follow-up programs. They accept phone calls and help with recommendations, monetary assistance, etc.

Besides a lack of affordable housing, the second major problem is that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) closed the waiting list for housing vouchers. All new applications will be accepted once the waiting list has been reduced (projected to be two years). HUD does not expect to reopen the program for at least two years. This is not for lack of money; according to many, HUD has many unused funds for housing. The reason for closing their voucher program is that their waiting list is in the thousands. Because of the rising cost of rent, apartments are rented at a higher price than can be covered by the vouchers.

In the past, when a family was ready for housing, FP called several local rental facilities that accepted clients with HUD vouchers. The problem is that several apartment complexes were sold to investors; the companies would rather accept higher rent payments than what is paid by HUD; some no longer accept HUD vouchers because of past problems with HUD clients causing costly damage to the apartments.

Generally, when a family receives a housing voucher, they are given 90 days to find stable housing. They can use their vouchers in any city or state, but many with HUD vouchers cannot find affordable housing in our community and elsewhere in the US. New families will be eligible for HUD housing assistance, but they can only apply with HUD once the program reopens.

With our county's current affordable housing crisis and a lack of housing voucher assistance from HUD over the next two years, we have a situation on our hands. The Brazos Valley Homelessness Coalition, including Tri-City Mission and Family Promise, is looking at ways to address this problem. Also, the cities of BC/S are investigating other options, namely, building more affordable housing for our citizens.

The City of College Station Community Development Office is providing a “Housing Partner Workshop” on Monday, March 6, at 3 pm at the College Station City Hall. The city plans to provide funding to increase housing stock in College Station for low-income and moderate-income households. The workshop will cover the requirements for becoming a housing partner with the City of College Station. They will discuss how to apply for funding. Please see the attached handout.

Phebe says we must do something different now, but change will only happen sometimes. If FP owned some duplexes or 4-plexes, they could offer low-income transitional housing for another year after graduating from FP.

Pam Johnson

UUCBV Chair of the Ministry for Social Justice and the Environment (MSJE)

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