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Housing and Homelessness

In Just 2 Weeks, 223K Applied For Section 8 Housing In Los Angeles

A man in a suit and tie speaks from behind a podium. Four other men stand close, looking toward him.
L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti announces the reopening of the city's Section 8 waitlist for the first time in five years.
(Julia Barajas
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After opening its Section 8 waitlist for the first time in five years, the city of Los Angeles received a total of 223,375 applications for low-income housing vouchers.

Just 30K Available Spots

Only 30,000 waitlist spots are available. The city will now enter applicants into a lottery to determine who will eventually receive a Section 8 housing voucher — a process that could take months or years.

Section 8 is the country’s largest rental assistance program, providing federal subsidies that enable low-income tenants to pay no more than a third of their income on rent. But the number of vouchers pales in comparison to the overwhelming demand for affordable housing in cities like Los Angeles, where sharply rising rents have long outpaced sluggish wage growth.

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“We are keenly aware of the lack of resources that individuals and families face when it comes to affordable housing solutions in our city,” said Doug Guthrie, president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.

One Family's Hope To Make The Cut

The city’s housing authority accepted online applications during a two-week period that ended on Sunday, Oct. 30.

L.A. resident Anita Velasquez applied soon after the online portal opened. She said the application process went smoothly. But she knows her odds of getting on the waitlist are slim.

“I just got to wait and see what God says,” Velasquez said. “I hope they pick me because I need the help so bad.”

Velasquez said she currently shares a one-bedroom apartment with her 12-year-old daughter and another adult daughter. Space is tight, she said, and their monthly rent typically goes up about $100 each year.

She hopes that getting a Section 8 voucher will help the family move into a larger apartment.

“It means a lot to me,” Velasquez said, “because I could get a place that actually has a room for my little one, for myself and for my other daughter.”

Applications Up 19% Since 2017

For the lucky few who are placed on the waitlist, the road to securing an affordable apartment remains long.

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Applicants can remain stuck on the waitlist for years. The number of vouchers is provided by Congress, and new vouchers become available to applicants when current participants die or begin earning too much to continue qualifying for help. When applicants finally receive a voucher, many struggle to find landlords in L.A. who will accept Section 8.

Despite the long odds, a large number of households submitted applications this year. This latest influx represents a 19% increase from the city’s last round of applications in 2017.

In total, the applications include 505,946 household members who are now hoping to get on the city’s Section 8 program. The housing authority plans to email all applicants by Dec. 1 to let them know if they’ve been placed on the waitlist.

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