April 08, 2020

Panel OKs housing assistance hike City council to decide whether single room rental vouchers should be $400

BANGOR – The city’s government operations committee approved a revised ordinance Tuesday that would increase housing assistance after landlords complained that the initial monthly rental allowances proposed were too low.

The committee is recommending that the revised ordinance be passed by the full city council upping monthly vouchers for single room rentals to $400 from the initially proposed $325. Landlords had complained in September that the rate was too low.

The committee chose $400 as the amount for the monthly voucher after a survey of local rental rates was taken and they used the average rate, Shawn Yardley, the city’s health and welfare director, said.

During a briefing for the committee in September, Yardley said some Bangor landlords had been “subdividing” apartments and charging each tenant the allowed rate.

In other words, he said, some landlords had been collecting rent from several individuals for the same apartment in part because they had been able to. The city has lacked the means for tracking such redundancies. About 200 Bangor property owners participate in the voucher program.

This was why the new ordinance had been drawn up in September.

“We believe we’ve closed the loophole,” Yardley said Tuesday.

Housing assistance comprises about 80 percent of the city’s annual general assistance budget, which has skyrocketed from $848,000 in 2002 to $1.8 million last year, City Manager Edward Barrett said.

The state reimburses half of the first $625,000 the city spends on general assistance and 90 percent of any expenditures beyond that.

As it stands, those eligible for general assistance receive vouchers for housing costs and are responsible for finding their own rents. The vouchers are presented to the owners, who submit them to the city for reimbursement.

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