St. Louis Housing Program Helps Section 8 Tenants Move Into Better Neighborhoods

By on February 26, 2019

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  Before she got help with paying rent, Naima Wartts wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to live independently.

Wartts, 42, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999. The illness left her unable to maintain steady employment. For the next decade, she lived with her mother until she was able to secure disability benefits from the federal government.

Getting on disability meant Wartts was also eligible for Section 8 housing. Section 8 participants pay up to 40 percent of their income for housing costs, including rent and utilities, with the rest subsidized by the federal government.

“That was just a huge blessing and an opportunity to embrace a standard of adulthood that you just can’t find when you’re still living at home,” Wartts said. She lives in a downtown St. Louis apartment, where she has lived for almost 10 years since receiving a housing voucher.

With the help of a local housing program, Mobility Connection, Wartts hopes to move to University City or Clayton, which would bring her closer to her grocery, library, part-time job, family and church.

“My center of gravity never really changed from U. City and Clayton,” Wartts said.

Mobility Connection, a joint program of city and county housing authorities, began in March 2017. It falls under the umbrella nonprofit AscendSTL, which was previously the St. Louis Housing Authority Development Corp. Ascend offers social services and affordable housing partnerships in the region.

Mobility Connection moves people with housing vouchers to “high-opportunity areas,” or places where 10 percent or less of households live in poverty and 10 percent or less of housing units are subsidized. These areas often have better schools, less crime and more community amenities.

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