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Guam - With homelessness a continuing issue locally, organizations such as the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority are working to increase affordable housing and give struggling families a step-up.


GHURA executive director Michael Duenas said, "As part of the governor's goal to build 3,000 affordable homes by the year 2017 is we've been awarding funds, credits under the low income housing tax credit program."


So far this has created an additional 154 new homes. Other successes include GHURA's Self-Sufficiency Program, which works with families in the Section 8 program to enhance their earning potential and skills. "We help them through things like finding educational opportunities, training opportunities, job opportunities," Duenas stated.


As their income increases, so does their rent, with the excess money contributed to an escrow account. At the end of the five-year program they can then use this for a downpayment.  He says the program has successfully created many new homeowners. However, demand for GHURA's programs far outnumber available slots. "Right now our Section 8 program is not accepting new applications, we closed the wait list in February of 2011," he said.


In fact, over 1,600 people are on the waiting list for roughly 100 vouchers, coupled with an 8% turnover rate, means the wait will be staggering.


"We don't want families to be out there on the wait list for 2-3 years thinking that any time soon they will be housed, when in reality, the turnover rate we have, it'll be seven years or more before they can be reached," he said.


GHURA's Public Housing Program, however, is still accepting applications, despite the fact that there are already 1,400 people on a wait list for only 30 vacancies of its 750 housing units.


Duenas says unless resources increase or the economy improves, homelessness will remain an endemic community issue.