Cook County opens voucher waiting list for first time in 20 years

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COOK COUNTY BOARD President Toni Preckwinkle and officials from the Housing Authority of Cook County announce the opening of the Housing Choice Voucher.

Cook County tosses ‘lifeline’ to needy residents, opening housing voucher waiting list for first time since 2001

The Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) on Tuesday, October 20, announced it will accept applications for its Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program waitlist for the first time since 2001.

Formerly known as Section 8, the HCV Program provides subsidies to income-eligible households to assist with rental payments in the private rental market. HACC currently provides assistance to more than 15,000 voucher holders with funding provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“Decent housing is a basic human right and through the Housing Choice Voucher Program we are providing an invaluable resource to low-income families,” said HACC Executive Director Richard Monocchio. “Getting a Housing Choice Voucher can be life changing. The voucher ensures that a family is stably housed, that they are not paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent and that that family will be sheltered even if someone loses their job.”

HACC will accept applications for the waitlist through November 2. The open application period began on October 19. Housing Choice Vouchers, which subsidize the difference between 30 percent of a household’s total monthly income and the cost of that household’s rent, are available to all households whose incomes are less than 50 percent of the Area’s Median Income (AMI) according to family size.

In the Chicago metro area, the income eligibility threshold ranges from $31,850 for a single individual to $60,100 for a household of eight. The subsidy is portable and can be used to rent any qualifying rental unit within HACC’s jurisdiction, which includes all of suburban Cook County, with the exceptions of Cicero, Park Forest, Maywood, Waukegan and Oak Park.

“No one should have to choose between paying the rent and feeding their family,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “The pandemic and its economic consequences have illuminated the crisis of housing instability faced by so many. I commend Rich and his staff at HACC for recognizing this need; [for] opening the waitlist, which will help lift people out of poverty and provide a platform, especially for seniors and children, to live their lives with dignity.”

The HACC waitlist will have 10,000 spots for new applicants. HACC will be accepting applications through its online portal until the end of the application window on November 2. After the close of this period, all applications will be screened, and a computer-generated random lottery will select 10,000 eligible applicants for the waitlist. Only one application per household will be accepted.

The length of time since the last HCV waitlist opening—almost 20 years—speaks to the dire need for affordable housing and the necessity of federal support. Wait times for Housing Choice Vouchers nationwide vary, but normally around half of public housing authorities nationwide will not be accepting new applicants at any given time. Depending on federal allocations, the earliest an accepted applicant could be provided a voucher is 1.5 years, but wait times could be longer.

“We are anticipating an incredible volume of applications and conducting outreach across the county in many languages. We will be ordering the applicants randomly so that every applicant has the same chance of getting a place on the waitlist,” Monocchio said.

The application will be available online only at http://myportal.thehacc.org from now until 4:30 p.m. on November 2. Paper applications will not be accepted. The application will be available in English, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Arabic, Hindi, Korean and Chinese. Applicants who need a reasonable accommodation or assistance in filling out an application can contact the HACC by phone at (312) 517-2388 or at HCVWaitlist2020@thehacc.org.

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