Families who lost their homes in Hurricane Rita can now get vouchers for rent payments that were formerly only available to Hurricane Katrina victims, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said today.

HUD said it has used a new $390 million supplemental appropriation to replace and expand its current rental assistance program that aided families who lost their homes to hurricane Katrina.

The Disaster Voucher Program (DVP) extends eligibility for assistance to families who lost their homes to both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program (KDHAP) only assisted Katrina evacuees.

“There are still families who desperately need housing,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Orlando Cabrera, who heads HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing, in a statement. “We are confident this funding and the changes to our original hurricane rental assistance program will help even more families find stable, more long-term housing solutions.”

Families who were eligible for KDHAP — former public housing residents, Section 8 voucher holders and multifamily projects — are eligible for DVP through Sept. 30, 2007, to provide housing anywhere in the U.S., HUD said.

Families that were homeless prior to Katrina or Rita are also eligible for this assistance. The more than 15,000 families who are registered under KDHAP have been transferred to DVP, without assistance interruption, the department said.

Families who fall into any of the categories above can call (866) 373-9509. Operators at this call center will refer families to PHAs across the country, the department said. The PHA in that area will assist the family in its search for available housing. The DVP assistance will cover rent and utility costs at the local fair market rent, according to the department.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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