Feb 14, 2023 - News

Demand for housing vouchers soars in Philadelphia

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Demand for federal housing vouchers far outstripped supply when Philadelphia briefly reopened its waitlist last month for the first time in 12 years.

Driving the news: The Philadelphia Housing Authority received more than 36,700 applications for the Housing Choice Voucher Program over two weeks, which ended Feb. 5, agency spokesperson Nichole Tillman tells Axios.

  • Yes, but: Unlike in years past, the housing agency is limiting the number of vouchers it will offer to 10,000.

Why it matters: The program allows eligible applicants the chance to rent on the private market at a discount anywhere in the city.

Flashback: When the agency last opened the waitlist for the vouchers, formerly known as Section 8, in 2010, more than 55,000 applications were submitted.

How it works: A lottery will select the 10,000 applicants to be added to the housing vouchers waitlist, who will then be screened for eligibility.

  • The housing agency is expected to process and distribute 2,000 vouchers this year.
  • The remaining people on the waitlist are expected to receive vouchers within three to five years.

By the numbers: 19% of applicants for the waitlist identified themselves as homeless, while another 45% said they were at risk of being homeless, Tillman says.

Between the lines: A housing voucher does not guarantee a recipient will immediately find housing.

  • While Philly provides approximately 19,500 housing vouchers, only 5,200 landlords participate in the program. Some voucher recipients say they've faced discrimination by landlords.

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