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Oswego Common Council considers changes to housing voucher program

Payne Horning
WRVO News File Photo

The city of Oswego is moving to change who gets its federal housing subsidies in an effort to propel more locals out of poverty. The city's common council is considering a proposal to prioritize applicants who are working, taking college classes or enrolled job training programs. Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow says these changes will inspire candidates to improve their applications, and in the process combat generational poverty.

“We want to make the program a program that will connect people to the resources and will be a program that is made to help the single mother with two children and a part-time job who has a gap in the rent and they need assistance to fulfill the remainder of the rent rather than providing a full subsidy to someone who doesn’t work and needs their rent paid,” Barlow said.

Barlow says the city is working with several nonprofit organizations to provide those job training programs for no cost.

Some have suggested that Oswego does not have the resources in place to successfully administer a system like this, noting that the county has one of the largest unemployment rates in the state. But Barlow said his proposal will not result in any current recipients losing benefits, and will equip the city's residents with valuable resources.

"Showing them how to do a job search, preparing them for an interview, properly preparing their resume I think just helps take a small step in making them more competitive so when these jobs open at the major employers around the city and around the city and around Oswego County, they can apply and have a shot - or at least a better shot than they do now," Barlow said. 

Currently, the city subsidizes the rent for about 400 city and county residents. Barlow hopes to reduce that number.

If approved, the changes would begin in 2018. A public hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for December 11.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.