News

HUD waiting list open again

Lottery determines placement

For the first time in four years, low-income individuals and families can join a waiting list for rental assistance.

The history of the Housing Authority of Island County’s Section 8 housing choice voucher program illustrates the pressing need in the community for such assistance. There are literally hundreds of families that seek help paying their bills.

Steve Gulliford, executive director of HUD of Island County, said the agency ended up closing a waiting list for the voucher program on May 31, 2004, after more than 600 households were on the list. The agency receives only 274 vouchers for the entire county.

“We reached a point where it didn’t make sense to continue to accept and process applications if people would have to wait years,” he said.

But now, less than 30 applicants remain on the waiting list, so HUD is taking applications once again.

The housing choice voucher is a federally-funded assistance program for low-income people. Those who receive the vouchers pay 30 percent of their household income towards housing, while the housing authority will pay the rest.

To qualify, a person or household must earn less than 50 percent of the median income for the area. A family of four, for example, would have to make less than $38,950.

Gulliford said the vouchers cover both rent and utilities, but the program sets a cap on housing costs. The total housing cost —

It’s really a successful program, Gulliford said, because it doesn’t tie people into living in a specific apartment complex. In fact, once people receive a voucher, they can bring it with them if they leave the county.

According to the housing director, the number of vouchers hasn’t increased in at least eight years, while the need definitely has. Congress just hasn’t kept up with funding.

“Rents have gone up,” he said, “but people’s incomes haven’t kept up with the percentage increase.”

Gulliford said he expects that a lot of people will sign their names to the waiting list. Based on historic turnover rates, he said, applicants may be on the list for several months up to three to four years before receiving rental assistance.

There’s no reason to wait in line to hand in an application. After the deadline, HUD will hold a lottery-style drawing to determine where applicants will be placed on the waiting list.

Completed applications may be hand delivered or mailed to the Housing Authority of Island County, 7 NW 6th St., Coupeville, WA 98239 on or after May 1, 2008.

All applications received by 1 p.m., Friday, May 9, will be included in the first lottery drawing. Each Friday following May 9, another lottery will be held from applications received that week to place applicants on the waiting list.

Beginning May 1, applications will be available at the following locations: Housing Authority of Island County, 7 NW Sixth St., Coupeville; Compass Health Whidbey, 105 NW First St., Coupeville; DSHS, 275 SE Pioneer Way, Suite 201, Oak Harbor; Opportunity Council, 1791 NE First Ave., Oak Harbor.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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