SALT LAKE CITY – For the first time since 2005, Utah housing authorities will receive funding to provide additional "housing choice vouchers" to people with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a total of $1.1 million to housing authorities throughout Utah to help people with disabilities to pay for housing, the department announced this week.

The program – Section 811 Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher Program – is limited to low-income, "non-elderly" disabled individuals between 18-62 years old, and is intended to reduce and prevent institutionalization and homelessness.

"A lot of times in the past, people have been forced to live in certain areas or institutions because of their disabilities," said HUD spokeswoman Christine Baumann. "This gives them more choice, allows them to choose their housing and still get the services they need. Vouchers are a great way to prevent homelessness, a way to intervene before it becomes a problem."

The funding will provide vouchers to 166 recipients, who can renew them each year as long as they are eligible, Baumann said. Recipients will pay 30 percent of their income toward rent, and the rest will be covered by the vouchers. They are able to choose from a number of private housing options, as long as the landlords accept the vouchers.

Housing authorities usually have waiting lists for the voucher program, Baumann added.

Baumann said the purpose of the program is to "make sure people aren't forced into living in places that might not be ideal for them."

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Public housing agencies across the country will receive a total of $98.5 million in vouchers for the program, providing assistance to 12,000 people, the department announced Tuesday.

The Ogden Housing Authority will receive $147,787 in the form of 28 vouchers. Salt Lake County will receive 50 vouchers for $393,948. Salt Lake City will receive 35 vouchers for $270,833. Utah County will receive 28 vouchers for $200,495. Cedar City will receive 25 vouchers for $87,129.

In 2005, Baumann said, the program funded vouchers in Logan, Beaver and Cedar City.

"HUD is committed to making sure people with disabilities have a decent, safe and affordable place to call home," Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson said in the announcement. "Working closely with our local partners, we help residents with disabilities live independently and fully enjoy the use of their homes."

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