Waitlist for Section 8 Vouchers Now Closed

The waitlist for Section 8 vouchers in Vermont, which reopened on April 1st of this year, is now closed. For more information read this recent article from the Rutland Herald below or at the link here:

With fewer federal dollars available to help and rents rising out of reach for more and more Vermonters, the state housing authority on Monday closed its waitlist for Section 8 housing vouchers after more than 1,400 applications flooded in within just two and a half months.

As of mid-day Monday, the agency had 1,435 applications on its waitlist, said Kathleen Berk, director of housing programs for Vermont State Housing Authority. The VSHA first closed its list in 2010, and despite briefly reopening it for those displaced by Tropical Storm Irene, kept it closed until April 1 of this year, when it had gone through every application on file.

“I think the number is astounding and really speaks to the incredible need for affordable housing across the state,” Berk said.

Section 8 vouchers are the federal government’s major program for assisting low-income families to afford housing in the private market. Administered locally by public housing authorities, the vouchers are funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

While waitlists in the past could reach these numbers, Berk said, they usually didn’t so accurately reflect need. Administrators would reach a name on the list and find out that the applicant had found help elsewhere, or was no longer eligible, and would move on to the next name.

But with these applications submitted within such a short period of time, Berk said all but a negligible amount of those 1,400 applicants probably do need the assistance now.

Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the country for renters, according to a report jointly released in May by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. A family must have 2.3 wage earners working full time at minimum wage, or one full-time earner working 90 hours a week, to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the statewide average market rate of $1,075, according to the report.

Statewide, a renter needs to make $16.07 an hour to afford a market-rate one-bedroom at $836, but the average Vermont renter only makes $11.78 an hour, the report said. Rents in Vermont have gone up 29 percent since 2008, it noted.

Of the applications currently on the VSHA’s waitlist, 579 are families with children, Berk said, 169 are elderly households, and 256 are families with disabilities. Seventy-six of those 1,400 applications are from Rutland County, Berk said, and 33 of those applications represent families with children. Eight are applications from elderly households, 18 from families with disabilities.

The VSHA generally issues vouchers on a first-come, first-served basis, although since Irene, it also gives slight preference to those recently displaced by fire, flood and condemnation, Berk said. Those in a transitional housing program administered by the VSHA get some preference as well, Berk said, and the agency is seeking public input on the possibility for a preference for homeless families.

The VSHA is approved to administer 3,736 vouchers, but only 3,292 of those vouchers were funded as of May 1, Berk said. She added that assuming funding levels hold steady and the agency turns over 30 to 50 vouchers a month, the VSHA expects it will be about two years before it gets through its waitlist.

Regional housing authorities across the state administer Section 8 vouchers as well, but Vermonters seeking relief there generally face waitlists of two to three years.

A renter who lives within a regional authority’s boundaries can apply to the state and the regional authority’s Section 8 programs, but ultimately can only accept one voucher.

In Rutland County, the Rutland Housing Authority administers vouchers within six miles of the Rutland City limits. That authority’s waitlist is open, but any renter submitting his or her name now faces about a two-year wait, said Becky Ladabouche, RHA office assistant. The authority has a little less than 200 vouchers to work with, she said.

Bennington Housing Authority’s waitlist is open, but it should take the agency anywhere between two and three years to get through the names already on the waitlist, said Debbie Reed, BHA executive director.

The Montpelier Housing Authority waitlist is open — after having been closed for about four years — but 50 applicants already sit on the waitlist. Of the 122 vouchers the agency is approved to administer, only 106 are funded, said Jo-Ann Troiano, MHA executive director.