CHA is set to re-open its affordable housing waitlist after six years

By J’nelle Agee

Drexel Tower Apartments is one of CHA's affordable housing properties and is located in Kenwood.
Drexel Tower Apartments is one of CHA’s affordable housing properties and is located in Kenwood.

The Chicago Housing Authority’s affordable housing waitlist is set to re-open on Oct. 27, after being closed for six years. This time, more low-income housing options are available. The application period will close on Nov. 24.

In 2008, thousands of perspective candidates applied for the CHA Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) through the waitlist lottery, which was open for four weeks. The voucher program was intended to be the city’s primary housing assistance program.

This time, the CHA will be accepting 40,000 applicants who will be added to the previously established waitlist. The candidates from the waitlist will then be randomly selected through a computerized lottery.

For this upcoming launch, the CHA will offer three voucher programs for interested applicants. They include:

  • Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8)
  • Property Rental Assistance program
  • Family Public Housing program

The Section 8 voucher program allows low-income families to rent quality housing in the private market with federal funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The CHA will then pay a portion of an eligible family’s rent each month directly to the property owner/manager.

Families are expected to contribute 30 percent of their adjusted income toward the payment of their monthly rent for this program.

The Property Rental Assistance program will aim to assist property owners to create high-quality affordable housing in revitalized communities, either in new construction or rehabilitation. Those units will then be available to those on the list.

The Family Public Housing program, which was last offered in 2010 as a project-based initiative, will provide affordable low-income housing in properties owned and operated by CHA.

Applicants must meet specific income qualifications. Individual incomes will be compared with the area median income. For example the maximum income for a family of four is $57,900 or 80 percent of the area median income ($72,000).

As units and funds become available, applicants who are on the waitlist are selected at random and screened for eligibility. Prospective candidates must complete an interview, have their income requirements verified, and pass a criminal background check.

“(The) CHA is opening its waitlist to help meet the great housing needs in the city of Chicago as it works to replenish (the) CHA waitlist,” said Wendy Parks, director of communications and marketing.

“Currently, the HCV list is exhausted,” she said.

When the initial list closed, over the past several years, the CHA created alternative project-based initiatives for those who were unable to be placed on the voucher waitlist.

Betty Brock, 63, applied for the voucher in 2008 and didn’t get on the list. She is currently being assisted through the Property Disposition Program at the Drexel Towers Apartment complex in Kenwood. Brock lives with her 13-year-old granddaughter and has lived in the building for four years.

Now with the waitlist re-opening, Brock and her daughter, who has been looking for affordable housing, will apply.

“My daughter has been looking for a place for about a year, maybe longer, and everything that’s in this area is real high,” Brock said. “And even other places where there’s low-income, the rent is too high, you can’t afford it in this area.”

The lottery will occur in early 2015 and those selected from the waitlist will be notified when drawings take place.

Applications will be taken starting Oct. 27 at http://www.chawaitlist.org.