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A spirit that is not afraid

Is affordable housing in Auburn an issue for students?

West & Wright and 191 College are two of the large private dorms that have been recently constructed.
West & Wright and 191 College are two of the large private dorms that have been recently constructed.

Low-income families, individuals and college students alike combat the issue of affordable housing within the city of Auburn.

The Auburn Housing Authority was established in 1949 to assist citizens with finding safe, quality housing at an affordable price.

According to Sharon Tolbert, chief executive officer of AHA, the Auburn Housing Authority owns 304 project-based vouchers, or PBVs, and has an ACC of 280 section 8 vouchers. An ACC, or annual contributions contract, is a written agreement between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and local public housing agencies.

The PBV program assists participants with the costs associated with AHA-owned units, but the Section 8 vouchers assist participants with the costs of any housing unit willing to accept the voucher. Currently, both programs in Auburn have a waitlist.

“The PBV waitlist has over 1,000 applicants on the list and the Section 8 waitlist has over 400 applicants,” Tolbert said. “The Section 8 waitlist is currently closed due to low voucher turnover.”

Low voucher turnover is an issue for those currently in need of affordable housing. However, AHA hopes to improve this problem by implementing programs for current participants and expanding housing.

“AHA’s mission is to transition families from subsidized to unsubsidized housing,” Tolbert said. “We offer the Family Self-Sufficiency Program which encourages families to increase earned income in hopes to decreasing or eliminate the need for housing subsidy.”

AHA also works to combat the lack of affordable housing by expanding housing opportunities through special purpose vouchers.

“To expand housing options, AHA volunteered to administer special purpose vouchers benefiting homelessness veterans, foster youth aging out of foster care and non-elderly disabled households,” Tolbert said.

In comparison to surrounding areas, Auburn has a “tight rental market,” which has resulted in a low voucher utilization rate. To counter this issue, AHA continues to market their programs in order to expand housing opportunities.

Although AHA tends to assist low-income families, college students may apply for housing assistance as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.

Eligibility is determined by total annual gross income and family size. According to AHA, the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income from the county or metropolitan area in which they choose to reside. Income limits are listed on the AHA website.

For college students living in off-campus apartments, opinions on Auburn’s rental market differ per person. 

Antione Johnson, freshman in biomedical sciences, believes that off-campus housing is his most affordable option in the long-run.

“Off-campus housing is more affordable. In my opinion, on-campus housing would put you in more debt for a
smaller space of living,” Johnson said.

Sarah Sims, sophomore in marketing, acknowledges the challenge surrounding finding and renting Auburn apartments.

“While Auburn does have some affordable housing options for students, many are not desirable due to location, lack of amenities and unresponsive management,” Sims said. “It’s likely that you have to sign a lease so far in advance that it’s nearly impossible to find roommates or get people to commit.”

Sims believes that it is understandable why some apartments in this area up-charge, but it may become an issue in the future.

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“It is something that in the future should be addressed for the benefit of Auburn students,” Sims said.

Not only has affordable housing become an issue in Auburn, but some would also say it is noticeably worsening as the city’s population grows.

Kayleigh Freeman | News Writer

Kayleigh Freeman, freshman in journalism, is a news writer at The Auburn Plainsman.

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