Renters face long waits for vouchers

Nikeda William, 28, receives her application to get on a waiting list for a project-based voucher program through Bickerdike, a community development organization. Photo by Carlos J. Ortiz.

Nikeda William, 28, receives her application to get on a waiting list for a project-based voucher program through Bickerdike, a community development organization. Photo by Carlos J. Ortiz.

The news: In April, President Barack Obama allocated $13.6 billion to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for affordable housing and community development.

Behind the news: Renters looking for relief from escalating rents and foreclosures via the city’s housing voucher program are finding their chances slim and their waits long.

In 2008, 17 percent of the people applying for housing vouchers through the Chicago Housing Authority had successful applications, according to an analysis of CHA data by The Chicago Reporter.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides people earning less than half of the Chicago metropolitan area’s median household income–”$58,938 in 2007–” with access to housing units in the private market.

Voucher holders pay up to 40 percent of their monthly household income toward rent. The rest is covered by the CHA.

The voucher program is different from CHA-owned public housing developments, which have a separate application process.

In 2008, which was the last time the CHA opened up enrollment in the voucher program, 232,000 applications were received. Of those, 40,000 were randomly selected to be placed on a waiting list, which can last up to 10 years.

The number of vouchers that can be distributed are limited by federal mandates and budgetary constraints, said Linda Kaiser, executive vice president of resident services for the CHA.

At 9 a.m. on March 30, Bickerdike, a community development organization, opened its waiting list for its voucher program. Hours before doors opened, a group of 200 people had formed. Typically, 40 units become available each year, said Operations Director Chrissie Richards. “These folks can be waiting for up to five years,” Richards said.

Marcia Martin, of Belmont Cragin, was one of the people in line. She pays $1,000 monthly in rent. “We need more affordable housing,” Martin said.

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