Jan 10, 2023 - News

Philadelphia's housing voucher waitlist to reopen after 12 years

Illustration of a welcome mat in the shape of a ticket or voucher.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Philadelphia's waitlist for federal housing vouchers will reopen later this month for the first time in more than a decade.

Why it matters: Eligible residents will once again have an opportunity to rent on the private market at a discount anywhere in the city under the program.

What's happening: The Philadelphia Housing Authority will accept applications to the Housing Choice Voucher Program, previously known as Section 8, for two weeks, starting Jan. 23.

  • The agency was able to reopen the program after finally clearing its waitlist from 2010, when more than 55,000 applications were submitted, PHA president Kelvin Jeremiah said during a news conference Monday.
  • Jeremiah said he expects PHA to receive close to the same amount of applicants this round.

What's new: PHA is capping the number of vouchers it will offer this time — at 10,000.

  • Eligible families will be selected through a lottery.

What they're saying: Jeremiah said the cap could allow the agency to potentially take applicants again within three years.

  • "This provides for a more frequent reopening [of the voucher program waitlist] and we think that that is more equitable," he said.

How it works: The federal government's program provides rental assistance to low-income individuals and families to rent on the private market in the neighborhood of their choice. It pays for up to 70% of the rent for a unit.

  • Individuals in the program are tasked with finding their own units and landlords to accept the vouchers.
  • PHA is expected to process and distribute 2,000 vouchers soon after the waitlist is closed on Feb. 5. The remaining vouchers will be issued over the next three to five years.

Of note: Applications are only accepted online via PHA's website.

By the numbers: The city currently provides more than 19,800 housing vouchers, making Philly the fourth largest program in the country, Jeremiah said.

  • But only around 5,200 landlords participate in the voucher program, which Jeremiah said isn't enough to meet the need.

Between the lines: Beyond the program's decade-long waitlist, some voucher recipients in Philly have faced discrimination by landlords.

  • While federal law does not prevent landlords from rejecting housing vouchers with some exceptions, the city’s Fair Practice Ordinance prohibits landlords from denying tenants because they would be paying with vouchers.

What we're watching: PHA is trying to lure more landlords to join the voucher program by renewing its incentives — such as signing bonuses and other benefits.


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