The Philadelphia Tribune: After more than a decade, Philly to reopen waitlist for housing vouchers

For the first time in more than a dozen years, Philadelphia’s housing agency said Monday that it plans open a waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher program, starting at 6 a.m. on Jan. 23.

Formerly known as the Section 8 program, the voucher program or HCV helps low income families, the elderly and disabled individuals to afford, safe, decent and stable housing in the private market with a rent subsidy from the federal government.

“We at PHA affirm that housing is a human right and everyone needs a decent, safe, stable and affordable place to call home,” said Kelvin A. Jeremiah, PHA president/CEO. “With rents rising more hard working people need financial assistance. Help has arrived. Everyone will have a fair and equal chance.”

Applications for the waiting list will be available on PHA’s website. The waiting list will remain open until Feb. 5 at 5:59 p.m., with a goal of accepting about 10,000 people. The online application will be translated into Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese and Russian. Other languages will be available through Google Translate. There won’t be any paper applications.

“They (PHA) are addressing a great need, a need that is not only in the in the city of Philadelphia, but across the nation,” said U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District. “You are part of the front line in this challenge and we can’t do it alone. This must be a collective effort. We can’t do this by ourselves, we must work together.”

According to Evans, solving the affordable housing crisis requires the help of PHA, housing groups, landlords, city, state and federal government officials working together.

For example, the Biden-Harris administration has allocated $8.5 billion in federal money for public housing nationwide.

“It’s clear that the federal government has to play a major role in addressing this challenge,” Evans said. “It’s important to show outcomes of what is taking place by people working together.”

Evans said he has made affordable housing a priority in Washington, D.C.

After the closing of the applicant period on Feb. 5, PHA will notify the 10,000 applicants by March 1, who were selected by a random lottery of their place on the list by mail and email. Applicants who were not selected will also be notified by the same methods. Also by March 1, 2,000 vouchers will be made available.

As PHA begins to pull applicants from the list, each household will be evaluated for eligibility including a city resident preference, before receiving a voucher.

“This has been a long time coming,” Jeremiah said. “We have done all the necessary work and due diligence.”

In addition, PHA also announced that it will extend its financial incentive program for new and existing landlords which includes signing bonuses of $300 and $1,000, security deposit assistance and an Owner Assurance Fund of $2,500 for damaged property, until June 30.

Paul Badger is president/CEO of the Badger Group, LLC, a real estate firm in Montgomery County that has participated in the Housing Choice Voucher program since 1996, when he purchased a home with an existing tenant in the program.

“The opening of the waiting list allows more applicants to now be eligible for units,” he said. “You have a greater number of tenants that will now be eligible. And also more tenants to choose from.”

In 2010, there were 55,000 people on the Housing Choice Voucher program waiting list in Philadelphia. The list had to be closed because it outnumbered the number of vouchers PHA had.

Currently, about 20,000 city residents participate in the voucher program.

A call center for help can be reached at 215-999-3102. Individuals with speech or hearing disabilities using TDD or TTY technology should call 711 for assistance. The phone line will include a live agent and interpreter services.

“Our goal is to ensure a fair, open and transparent barrier-free process with broad community and equal access to all interested applicants,” Jeremiah said.