The King County Housing Authority announced today that it will open its waiting list and accept new applications for its Housing Choice Voucher program for the first time in nearly four years.
Housing costs in the Seattle region have steadily climbed over the past year, while incomes have barely increased or in many cases, continued to decline. Households with low-skilled workers, elder or disabled individuals and poor families with children are increasingly having difficulty keeping up with rising rent and utility costs. The Housing Choice Voucher program, widely known as Section 8, currently helps about 11,000 low-income households in King County outside of Seattle and Renton pay their rent. One key initiative under this program is the issuance of housing assistance to homeless and disabled veterans.
During the 2013 federal budget sequester, the Section 8 program stopped re-issuing vouchers for 11 months. While KCHA resumed issuing vouchers once sequestration was lifted, the ability to house families applying for the new wait list will be dependent upon continued federal funding. If the sequestration goes back into effect and there are significant cuts in funding, few new families will be housed and the total number of families served through the program will shrink.
"The Section 8 program is our primary means of helping low-income families in King County to fill a basic need – housing,” said KCHA Executive Director Stephen Norman. “Opening up this waiting list will offer much-needed assistance to an additional 2,500 families, preventing homelessness, providing the housing security that we know is necessary to enable children to succeed in school, and seniors and disabled individuals to live with dignity.”
Families wanting to apply for the program can do so online at www.kcha.org. The signup period will last two weeks starting at 6 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 28 until 4 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 10.
According to the recently released 2015 Washington State Housing Needs Study nearly 125,000 renter households in King County are considered cost-burdened and pay more than they can afford for housing. The Jan, 24, 2014 One Night Count found more than 9,290 people were homeless in King County on this one night. During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year for which information is available) school districts in King County reported over 6,100 homeless school children.
The Section 8 program enables low-income families to find a home in the private rental market. Generally, KCHA pays the difference between the rent charged by a landlord and the assisted family’s rental contribution, which is set at approximately 30 percent of the household’s income.
KCHA expects thousands of families to apply for the openings. It will then conduct a lottery among qualified families to select those who will fill 2,500 positions on the waiting list.
“A lottery is the fairest way to make sure that all qualified families have an equal shot at getting into the program,” Norman said. He added that KCHA will notify families by the end of March if they are being placed on the application list. Some families could start getting rent vouchers as early as April.
The following qualifications must be met to be eligible for the lottery:
- The head of household must be over the age of 18; and
- At least one member of the household must be disabled, or at least age 62, or under the age of 18; and
- Families must be low-income.
Once a family has met the first three eligibility requirements, they must also meet one of the following:
- Must make less than 30 percent of the area median income for the family size ($26,450 for a family of four); or
- Be paying more than 50 percent of its total income for rent and utilities; or
- Be homeless; or
- Be living in substandard housing.
[Note: With rare exceptions, the family cannot live in government subsidized housing.]
The need for this program has far exceeded its resources. In 2011, KCHA received nearly 25,000 applicants from which 2,500 families were randomly selected by lottery for the waiting list. KCHA has now served nearly everyone on that list.
For more information about the application process, please call the King County Housing Authority Section 8 Office at (206) 214-1300 or visit www.kcha.org/housing/vouchers/apply/.
The application is free and only available through the KCHA website at www.kcha.org.
KCHA cautions against using individuals or agencies that charge a fee to help complete a Section 8 application. "Charging a fee to help with the process is fraudulent," Norman said. "Please don’t do it. If you need help, call the Housing Authority at 206-214-1300."
In addition to King County and Seattle libraries, free online computer access will be offered at the following locations:
- YWCA – Greenbridge Learning Center, 9720 8th Ave. SW, in White Center (Seattle); Mon-Thurs: 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Fri: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Auburn Learning Center at Firwood Circle, 313 37th St. SE, in Auburn ; Mon, Wed, Fri: 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
- Burndale Homes Community Center, 1044 18th St. NE, in Auburn; Mon and Wed: noon – 3 p.m.
- Birch Creek Career Center, 13111 SE 27th St., Suite 226, in Kent; Mon – Thurs: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Spiritwood Manor Community Center, 1424 148th Ave. SE in Bellevue; Wed, Jan 28: 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; Thurs, Jan. 29: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Fri, Jan. 30: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- WorkSource North Seattle, 9600 College Way North, Seattle; Mon – Fri: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- King County Library System: Call 425-462-9600 or 1-800-462-9600 for locations and times (online at www.kcls.org).
- Seattle Public Library System: Call 206-386-4636 for locations and times (online at www.spl.org/locations).
- Southcenter Library, 1386 Southcenter Mall, Tukwila; Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sun: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
KCHA is an independent municipal corporation established under Washington state law. It assists more than 18,000 households in the Seattle metropolitan region. The Authority administers rental housing assistance, develops and manages affordable housing and works closely with community stakeholders to address local priorities, such as ending homelessness, improving educational outcomes for the region’s low-income youth and assuring that disabled and elderly households can live with dignity.