For Some, Housing Vouchers a Needed Hand Toward Self-Sufficiency
Thousands of people in Austin have applied for low-income housing vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program since the city's waitlist reopened last week.
It’s been eight years since the subsidized housing program's wait list has accepted new applicants. That's because of limited affordable housing stock in Austin and demand for the program.
People rarely leave Section 8. This year, however, just over 300 in Austin say they’re self-sufficient, and are voluntarily leaving the program, opening up coveted wait-list spots for low-income families, disabled and elderly in Austin that need help paying their rent.
At Capital City Kids Daycare in Pflugerville, daycare director Latoya Satterwhite watches a group of 2 year-olds run around outside. She says she doesn't mind being hands-on, as she wipes a little boy's nose. She taught 2-year-olds at the center in 2011, but left. Three months ago she came back, but, now, as a director with an associate's degree.
Satterwhite says she has lived on Section 8 housing since 2009. At the time, life was tough. The single mother's son was constantly hospitalized with complications from asthma, which made her give up on school more than once.
But she was accepted in the city's Section 8 housing program and got an apartment.
“It's an amazing program,” Satterwhite says. “It helped me get through school by paying for childcare for the first year or so.”
Through her Section 8 counselor, Satterwhite also signed up for a savings program – something she never thought she could do while making little more than minimum wage.
Mike Roth with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin says not everyone can engage in such a rigorous program.
“Keep in mind that nearly a quarter of our families are disabled,” Roth says. “And well over 10 percent are also elderly.”
For those families, success is measured in a different way. But for people like Satterwhite, the goal is self-sufficiency. This year, when her lease was up for renewal, she told the Housing Authority to give her voucher to somebody else.
Now, her aim is beyond self-sufficiency.
“I see myself, in my long term goals, in my own [childcare] center,” she says. “So, that's what I'm going to do.”
She will soon buy a house where she and her son can live. She’s saved enough for a down payment, she says.
The city's Section 8 wait list is open through tomorrow.