Hundreds of thousands of people who need help paying their rent in Houston will soon have a chance to get assistance.
For the first time in four years, the Houston Housing Authority (HHA) is opening up the waitlist for rental vouchers. They expect 85,000 families to apply for just 30,000 spots.
"On a wing and a prayer,” said Sheryl Matthews of Houston when asked about her outlook outside the Houston Housing Authority building in West Houston on Tuesday afternoon.
"I came here cause I need a place to live,” Matthews said, adding she’s currently staying with a friend. “The rent is astronomical."
That rent has been growing just like the city she's called home since 1995, whose success comes at a price, even to people like Matthews working two jobs.
"It’s going up so high to where you just can't live anywhere, hardly," said Matthews.
But starting Monday, Matthews and nearly 400,000 eligible families in Houston will have a little bit more hope in finding an affordable place to live. That’s when they’ll have their first chance since 2012 to apply for a spot on the waitlist for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, better known as Section 8.
HHA officials say they’re opening the list because they’ve worked through the 20,000 families on the 2012 list. This time around, they expect to have spots for 30,000 families.
"It'll take a little while to serve that amount of families,” said Mark Thiele, vice president of the HHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. “We expect that to be about five years."
Thiele says the first families could get help by the end of this year, which will be awarded to recipients in the same order they’re chosen in a random lottery. They’ll get receive a voucher to pay part of the rent in apartment complexes and homes owned by roughly 5,000 landlords.
"(We’re) always trying to recruit new landlords, and we're doing that constantly,” said Thiele.
The HHA is also trying to help by offering public housing, though Emma Swayzer, who lives in public housing on the city’s East End, says even that’s competitive.
"It took me three years or better to get on it,” said Swayzer. "Houston (has) a lot of people (who) just don't have a place to stay."
Matthews says she'll apply for both public housing and the vouchers.
"If I have to come wait out here and see if I'm on the list, I'll do it,” said Matthews.
The HHA starts taking applications online only on Monday, Sept. 19, at 8 a.m. and will continue doing so 24 hours a day through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25. They’ll draw the random lottery on Sept. 29.
For more information and to access the application, click here.