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Wichita increases assistance for people with housing vouchers

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Mark Moz
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flickr Creative Commons

The move comes as rents increase in Wichita and nationwide.

Wichita increased the maximum amount of rent that housing vouchers will cover at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Housing vouchers are a form of government rent assistance. The city of Wichita distributes about 3,000 of them to low-income individuals and families.

The increase is between 7 and 9%, depending on the size of the unit for which the voucher pays.

City officials chose to increase the rents because they had noticed people with vouchers were struggling to sign leases.

In a normal year, 55% of people with vouchers would sign a lease. But that dropped to 32% in the first six months of 2022, said Sally Stang, housing and community services director.

“We’re in this predicament right now where people are having a hard time leasing up at all,” Stang said. “So we’re trying to make sure we can help as many people as we can.”

The difficulty is in large part due to skyrocketing rents. According to ApartmentList.com, rents in Wichita increased by about 10 percent compared to last year.

The city’s increase in rental assistance will go into effect on Aug. 1 for new voucher holders.

Priscilla Wakefield, who received a housing voucher from the city of Wichita this spring, said she wished the city had increased the maximum amount of rent vouchers would cover earlier this year.

Wakefield said she spent the past several months looking for housing. She found that many units had increased their rent compared to the previous year. And many were out of the price range her voucher allowed.

“It has been hellacious,” Wakefield said. “I went to a lot of the same places … and realized that the rent had hiked up a good $50 to $60 in most places.”

Wakefield said she ultimately had to negotiate with a landlord to bring the rent down within the cost of her voucher. She hopes to move in Sept. 1.

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Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.