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King County Receives Flood Of Section 8 Housing Applicants After Four Year Hiatus

File photo. apartment housing apt door
Flickr Photo/Matthew Piatt (CC-BY-NC-ND)
File photo.

If you are looking for more evidence of a housing crisis in King County, here it is.

Officials at the King County Housing Authority report a flood of people applying for federal housing assistance.

On Wednesday, after a four year hiatus, the authority once again began accepting applications for the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, more commonly called Section 8.

For the next two weeks, applications are being accepted for a total of 2,500 slots, to be chosen by lottery. In the first 18 hours after the process opened, 10,613 people had already applied -- four times the number of slots available.

Demand for Section 8 vouchers has long exceeded supply. When the King County Housing Authority last accepted applications in 2011, 25,000 people applied for 2,500 slots.

“It’s actually just a chance at a chance, this is a chance to get selected,” said Rhonda Rosenberg, Communications Director of the King County Housing Authority.

Rosenberg expects high demand this time as well, as both rentals costs and homelessness are on the rise. The recent One Night Count found 3,772 people living on the streets in King County, a 21 percent increase from the year before.

The King County Housing Authority administers about 11,000 Section 8 contracts throughout the county, but not in the cities of Seattle or Renton. They have their own housing authorities. 

The program is geared towards very low income, elderly and disabled people.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Screenshot of part of the application for Section 8 on the King County Housing Authority website.", "fid": "115005", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201501/section_8.PNG", "attribution": ""}]]For example, a family of four making $26,450 a year or less would be entitled to rent a 2 bedroom apartment for $1,060 a month. The family would be required to pay 30 percent of its income in rent, or $661 a month. Section 8 would pay the remainder.

Rosie Remillong, a 29-year-old single mother, won a slot on the waiting list in 2011, and after a three year wait, received her voucher last December. She will soon move into a two bedroom apartment in Kirkland with her 5-year-old daughter. She had been living in shelters, with relatives and in rehab facilities.

"It's a dream come true," she said.

The Section 8 program doesn’t always work out, though. Currently, 15 percent of people who receive vouchers fail to find housing within the required 120 days. That number is up from 8 percent in 2011, according to Rosenberg. That may be a function of rising rents and a tight housing market.

The Housing Authority will accept applications through February 10. The 2,500 people chosen by lottery will be put on a waiting list until vouchers become available. That could be a matter of weeks, months or even years.

Year started with KUOW: 2005