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L.A. to reopen Section 8 housing waiting list for first time in five years. Here’s what you need to know

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The city of Los Angeles will be reopening the waiting list for its Section 8 housing vouchers program for the first time in five years.

Starting Oct. 17, Angelenos will have two weeks to submit an application online for a chance to be added to a lottery waiting list. The last time Los Angeles opened its Section 8 waiting list was in 2017 — and nearly 188,000 people applied for only 20,000 available vouchers.

The federal government currently funds more than 2 million Section 8 housing choice vouchers for low-income tenants, making it the country’s largest rental assistance program. Many states, like California, have Section 8 waiting lists because the demand for subsidized housing often exceeds the supply.

“We only have so many vouchers that can be utilized over a certain period of time before we have to narrow down a waiting list to a certain number, where it takes four, five, six years to fully issue and utilize that voucher allocation,” said Doug Guthrie, chief executive and president of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.

There are 30,000 vouchers available, Guthrie said, but the city’s housing authority is anticipating more than 365,000 new applicants — giving hopefuls a one-in-10 chance of being selected.

Guthrie said those selected will have 180 days to secure a unit before their voucher is returned to the lottery to be given to someone else on the waiting list.

In the current market, tenants have a 70-80% chance of finding applicable Section 8 housing, lower than in previous years, Guthrie said.

“In the past, it’s almost always been 80%, and that’s been going down just because of the lack of affordable housing and the lack of options available,” he said.

Tenants who are selected for vouchers use them to apply for qualified housing, so long as the rent doesn’t exceed program limits. Those limits are determined by a number of factors, such as family size and the number of bedrooms authorized by the housing authority.

Tenants generally put no more than 40% of their income toward rent, with the voucher program covering the remaining expenses. Currently, only L.A. families who meet the Housing and Urban Development’s “extremely low” and “very low” income standards, or income that does not exceed more than 30% or 50% of the area median income, will qualify for vouchers.

Program eligibility is also determined by citizen status, according to the housing authority. U.S. citizens, noncitizens with legal immigration status, or mixed households where at least one person has legal immigration status qualify for the voucher.

The online application has not yet launched, but it will be made available on the housing authority website, at hacla.org. City officials said more details about the application process, how to properly submit an application and where applicants can seek help completing their forms will be available on the site by Oct 4.

It’s important to note that while a completed application may get families on the waiting list, this does not guarantee them a voucher, according to the housing authority. Applicants will be selected randomly via a lottery after the window for applications closes on Oct. 30.

Guthrie said all city libraries will be providing assistance to applicants.

“It’s a juggling act,” Guthrie said. “We want to make sure we’re using all our resources as quickly as we can, and trying our best. This is a very precious resource, and we want to be sure people can take advantage of it. The odds aren’t great, but the rewards can be tremendous for someone that’s really in need of housing assistance.”

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