In an attempt to bring its housing assistance program up to snuff, the city housing authority Tuesday increased limits on the stipend it pays eligible recipients.

The authority voted unanimously to increase payments to Section 8 households. It was responding to tenant complaints - brought to its attention by a community development director - that units in the allotted supplemental rent range are virtually nonexistent. Consequently, more habitable units sit vacant in West Valley than ever before, but the very residents who need them are unable to afford them.The Section 8 Program is funded in part by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The need-based program is based on income eligibility. Thirty percent of a participants' monthly pay is allocated to rent. The city or county municipality pays the rest directly to the landlord.

Some 367 families now receive certificates and vouchers for housing from the West Valley Housing Authority, according to John Janson, assistant community development director.

The new limits are based on a city survey of current rents. For a one bedroom residence, the housing authority now provides a $350 assistance cap; $450 for a two-bedroom; $625 for a three-bedroom and $715 for a four-bedroom. The old limits gave $342, $412, $504 and $555 respectively.

Janson said the old standard, initiated nearly eight years ago, was "really out of date."

"People really couldn't find a place. We were really lagging behind (what other jurisdictions offered) . . ., so people would go to another program that paid more," said Janson, who presented the argument to the housing authority. "There is a definite need here."

Councilman Gordan Evans, a housing authority commissioner, said the authority felt responsible for helping needy residents better meet the increased cost of living in the valley.

"We haven't paid as much as we should," Evans said. "We wanted to give more aid to those (who) are not able to pay."

The housing authority also unanimously approved submitting an application for 20 additional Section 8 vouchers and certificates to HUD. Janson said 1,100 West Valley families are on the Section 8 waiting list.