The Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority is gearing up for additional housing assistance in response to the coronavirus pandemic with a new federal voucher program.

With the goal of helping to house more people, the WHRA received 40 mainstream vouchers for people with disabilities under 62-years-old. WHRA executive director Maria Marthaler said there is “definitely a need” for the vouchers. Housing vouchers allow individuals and families to have homes, townhomes or an apartment to live in depending on income by providing a housing subsidy. The WHRA already receives 74 housing choice vouchers, according to Marthaler.

The mainstream voucher program is in partnership with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development with funding from the CARES Act. The vouchers can be spent up to $163,656 or to fill the 40 units. The new mainstream voucher program will start in February or March.

People in the program can choose their own housing, though Marthaler said one of the biggest obstacles is finding decent and affordable housing in the area.

The COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program has also been offered since the end of August through the Wadena HRA, MAHUBE-OTWA and organizations across the state. Marthaler said Wadena County has seen a “pretty good response” with the funds covering mostly rent and utilities. Gov. Tim Walz allocated $100 million of the state’s CARES Act funds for the program, and the WHRA received $100,000.

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The deadline to apply is Dec. 7.

The program can assist in covering costs such as rent payments, mortgage payments, contract for deed payments, manufactured home park lot rents, manufactured home payments, utility payments, homeowners association fees, homeowners insurance and additional housing related costs approved by Minnesota Housing, according to a Minnesota Housing release.

If you are interested in the program, visit 211unitedway.org or call 211; toll-free: 1-800-543-7709; local: 651-291-0211 or text “MNRENT” or “MNHOME” to 898-211 to learn more. You can also view a list of eligibility requirements on the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency website.

The CHAP program has kept staff “extremely busy,” as Marthaler said, including in helping agencies in other regions process higher numbers of applicants.

Staffing is a continued concern across industries, including at least one employee out a week over the past month due to quarantine at the WHRA. To help with the workloads, the board increased a part-time employee’s hours from 40 to 56 hours.

The WHRA will also receive increased funding for administrative costs related to the programs.

For more information on the programs or eligibility, call the Wadena HRA at 218-631-7723.

In other action on Nov. 24, the board approved:

  • The HUD regulations on criminal history for denying or terminating assistance for the housing choice voucher program.