Phoenix to reopen housing choice vouchers wait list after thousands don’t respond

Published: Wednesday, July 5, 2023 - 10:53am
Updated: Thursday, July 6, 2023 - 7:41am

For the first time in seven years, Phoenix will reopen its wait list for housing choice vouchers, formerly known as Section 8.

For several years, Phoenix has reported the voucher wait list for the city’s lowest income residents was too high, but the current number is unclear.

In May, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Vice Mayor Yassami Ansari and Councilwomen Betty Guardado, Kesha Hodge-Washington, Laura Pastor, Ann O’Brien and Debra Stark signed letters to Arizona’s congressional delegation asking for support to get more housing choice vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The letter cited 16,000 people on the city’s wait list although in March, the city’s housing department put the figure around 14,000.

After twice sending letters to get updates from those on the wait list, program manager Elenia Sotela recently told councilmembers: “Approximately, 2,200 applicants responded, which is less than 14%.”

Based on industry practice and discussion with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the program, Phoenix plans to reopen the pre-application process in August.,

Phoenix Housing Director Titus Mathew said a computer program will randomly place people on the wait list, “An application received the first day or the last day will have the same opportunity since this is not a first come, first-served model.”

Voucher holders typically pay 30% of their income toward housing costs and subsidies cover the rest. Vouchers can be used for private rentals and Phoenix offers financial incentives to boost landlord participation.

Mathew said the federally funded program is meant for households making less than 50% of the area median income, “For example, the income limit for a household of one is $32,750 and a family of four is $44,150 a year.”

Phoenix currently receives more than 7,000 housing choice vouchers.

Sotela said the housing department will work with other city departments to promote the pre-application process and offer the application in various formats and language based on census data.

“Given the various languages, outreach methods and streamlining of the pre-application, we are confident we will reach a wide audience for this opportunity,” she said.

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