For the first time in four years, the housing choice voucher program – formerly known as Section 8 – has reopened its waitlist to Austin residents in need of rental assistance.
The federal Housing Choice Voucher Program aims to help low-income families meet their housing costs. Residents who hold a voucher pay about 30 percent of their rent, and the federal government covers the rest.
When the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, or HACA, last opened the local waitlist in 2014, they got about 20,000 applications.
“We have finally exhausted that waiting list and are able to allow the community the opportunity to sign up again for the Housing Choice Voucher [Program],” says Laura Bodai, HACA’s director of admissions.
Bodai says this year’s process will be similar to the 2014 waitlist opening. HACA will select 2,000 applicants through a random lottery, and those people will be placed on the waiting list to receive a housing choice voucher.
“We issue vouchers on a monthly basis mostly,” Bodai says. “We issue as much as funding allows. We call in as many [applicants] as we can. Of course, those people are processed for eligibility for the program, so not everyone that we call in is eligible.”
Bodai says this year, eligible applicants who are selected early on through the lottery process will be issued a voucher “almost immediately.” Applications for the waitlist will be open through Sept. 24, and residents can apply online at HACA's website.
“We don’t want this waiting list to last four years,” Bodai says. “We’re hoping to be able to reopen it every one to two years. We want it to be a more common occurrence that we allow people to apply for this program.”