FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2012
HOUSTON-As a record number of families struggle to make their rent in a city with a dire shortage of affordable homes, more than 20,000 Houstonians in need will get an opportunity for housing assistance after officials open up the waiting list on August 20 for the first time in six years.
The Houston Housing Authority will open up the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8 housing, for one week, from Monday, August 20 through Sunday, August 26, 2012. Housing Authority officials expect as many as 75,000 Houston families, senior citizens and people with disabilities to sign up online for a lottery from which about 20,000 names will be added to the waiting list for housing assistance. The online process will eliminate the need to stand in any lines to apply, and everyone who applies during the open period will have an equal chance at the waiting list whether they are the first or last person to apply.
Houston has a desperate shortage of affordable housing. According to the 2010 census as many as 220,000 Houston households are believed to qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, but there is only space to serve an additional 20,000.
“The dream of having an affordable place to call home is, unfortunately, still too far away for hundreds of thousands of Houstonians. By opening the waiting list and helping families currently in the program transition out of assistance, we can provide an opportunity over the next few years for as many as 20,000 more Houston families to get the help they need to find a home,” HHA President and CEO Tory Gunsolley said.
The applications are being made available entirely online. Applications will be completed and submitted through the Housing Authority’s website: www.housingforhouston.com <http://www.housingforhouston.com. Paper applications are not available or accepted at any HHA property or office. Applicants with questions can call a toll-free hotline: 1-855-702-9130. The hotline will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting today.
An online lottery process will allow families to apply at a time and place convenient for them regardless of their work schedules and eliminate the need to stand in long lines in the Houston summer heat.
“Making the entire process electronic allows people to get into the lottery without having to wait in line at any one location,” Gunsolley said. It makes no difference if applicants are the first or last to apply; they stand the same chance to be selected for the waiting list.
The application process will be open 24 hours a day from Monday, August 20 through Sunday, August 26, 2012. The Houston Housing Authority will conduct the computer-generated lottery on September 3, 2012 and will notify the randomly-selected applicants by mail that they are being placed on the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher program.
The income thresholds will be determined at the time that applicants are accepted for assistance, but the current guidelines set the annual income limits for assistance from the Housing Choice Voucher Program at $23,450 for an individual and $33,450 for a family of four.
Families drawn from the lottery may be provided housing vouchers as early as the end of this year. HHA expects to draw about 1,700 families from the wait list every year.
Housing Authority officials have worked aggressively to spread the word throughout the community about the opening of the wait list. The Housing Authority advertised with local media and the Metro bus system, distributed flyers and other materials to community organizations and individuals throughout the area, made announcements through social media, and worked with area school districts to tell families about the opportunity.
“We are doing a full court press to get the word out,” Gunsolley said. “We want to reach people who may not be familiar with, or even know that they are eligible for the voucher program.”
The applications will be available online beginning August 20, 2012 in English and Spanish. Community centers and libraries around the city are coordinating with the Housing Authority to help make sure people have ready access to computers if they don’t have internet access at home. Residents can also use their smart phones to apply by going to www.housingforhouston.com.