The District of Columbia Housing Authority recently announced that it will close its waiting lists for Public Housing, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, and the Moderate Rehab Program on April 12, 2013. DCHA uses these waiting lists to keep track of applications for housing assistance programs. People are selected to receive housing assistance based on the date and time of their application. They are also chosen according to program preferences.
We encourage anyone seeking housing assistance from DCHA to submit an application by or before this deadline. You can complete an application for housing assistance and submit it to DCHA online, by mail, or in person at DCHA’s offices (1133 North Capitol Street N.E.). DCHA’s offices are open between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm. Copies of the application are available at DCHA’s main office and at satellite locations. If you submit the application by mail, it must be postmarked on or before April 12, 2013.
The closing of the waiting lists will not affect the applications that have already been submitted. If you want to see if you are on the waiting list, you can check here or call the DCHA Customer Service Call Center at (202) 535-1000. You can also update your application online or call the DCHA Customer Service Call Center.
It is worth noting that the waiting lists are not being closed because of a lack of need. Instead, DCHA has said it will not take new applications because the need is too great. As of August 2012, there were 64,428 applicants for housing assistance, including many families. Of these, 48,244—or 80 percent—described themselves as homeless in their application. Despite the overwhelming need, only a handful of applicants receive housing assistance from DCHA each year. Those who finally get help must wait years, if not decades, to work their way to the top of the list.
In recent years, the number of new applicants has increased steadily. This reflects the growing scarcity of affordable housing in the District. According to a recent D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute publication, between 2000 and 2010, median rent in the District for a one-bedroom apartment increased a tremendous 67 percent, from $735 to $1,100. Yet, during the same period, the income for households in the lowest quintile of income dropped by 4 percent, from $9,466 to $9,062. (Only slightly better, the income for the second lowest quintile increased by a modest 10 percent, from $29,561 to $32,500.) To make matters worse, between 2000 and 2010, the number of affordable rental units in the District has fallen by about half, from 70,600 to 34,500.
DCHA has not announced when it will reopen these waiting lists, maintaining that it will begin accepting applications again when more public housing and vouchers are available. Sadly, it is not clear when that might be because the federal government is set to cut funding for public housing and vouchers as part of the sequester. As my colleague Christy Moerhle has noted, the sequester will reduce affordable housing for low-income tenants in the District. The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities estimates that proposed cuts to the Housing Choice Voucher Program will not only limit the number of new vouchers DCHA can offer, but actually reduce the number of existing vouchers DCHA issues by 523. Likewise, the sequester will cut almost $3 million from DCHA’s Public Housing budget of $57,769,751, an amount that will severely hamper DCHA’s ability to provide quality public housing.
Unfortunately, these cuts come at a time when the need for affordable housing in D.C. is only growing. Reversing this trend and expanding housing opportunities requires more public education about the need out there, and the political will to do something about it.