In 1944, the Douglas County Court, the predecessor of today’s county commissioners, declared a housing emergency and the Housing Authority of Douglas County was born. It’s purpose then, as now, was to help low-income community members find a place where they could afford the rent.
On Thursday, HADCO will celebrate its 75th birthday. The celebration will begin at 3 p.m. at 990 W. Stanton St. in Roseburg. Previous HADCO directors Wally Hunnicutt and Ilona McCracken will speak about the organization’s history.
HADCO started with 225 trailer units for temporary war housing. Those didn’t stay up for long but were replaced by more permanent apartment buildings. Today, the organization provides Section 8 vouchers for 762 families and low-rent public housing in 323 rental units around the county.
Executive Director Janeal Kohler said HADCO is there for the many people who are looking not for a handout, but a hand up.
“We’re proud to take a moment to reflect on how far affordable housing has come in Douglas County and across the nation because housing is so important. So for us, reflecting on all the hard work that’s being done out there and acknowledging the work that still needs to be done,” she said.
Residents with Section 8 vouchers can use them for rent at privately owned apartment buildings. The waits can be a year or two, but not nearly as long as at many housing authorities across the nation. Some of those can have waitlists up to 20 years, and some use a lottery system, Kohler said.
HADCO uses a non-preference wait list for vouchers, meaning applicants are helped on a first-come, first-served basis regardless of the reason why they need housing assistance.
“The reason is we get approached with a lot of different crisis situations, and it’s very difficult to judge consistently who’s more important than another. Is a veteran more important than a family living in a car with children?” Kohler said.
HADCO also provides counseling and education to those looking for housing, as well as outreach with private landlords. In all, the organization contributes about $3 million in housing assistance each year, an amount Kohler said she expects to increase.
Ultimately, she’s most encouraged by those who have been helped by HADCO and then moved on, and it’s those kinds of successes she hopes will continue into the future.
“That’s what these programs are for is a hand up to get on your feet, overcome some barriers and hopefully get your own house that you can purchase,” she said.