47,000 Apply to Georgia DCA for Housing Vouchers in First 24 Hours
Within the first 24 hours, the agency has received approximately 47,000 applications, according to Jana Wiggins, a DCA spokesperson.
That is more than three times the number of households that currently receive Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly called “Section 8”) through DCA.
“DCA recognizes there is a high demand for the housing choice vouchers across the state. We also realize how fortunate Georgia is that we can offer the opportunity to renters,” Wiggins told Atlanta Progressive News.
DCA announced in January 2016 that it would accept new voucher applications for a period of one week beginning on Monday, February 01, 2016.
A DCA employee told Atlanta Progressive News that the website with the application details received fifty hits per second following the announcement.
“The voucher program provides a rental subsidy to assist extremely low and low-income individuals and families in renting safe, decent and affordable housing in the private rental market throughout DCA’s jurisdiction of 149 counties in Georgia,” the agency explained in a press release.
The ten counties not served by DCA have local housing authorities that administer voucher programs independently.
Wiggins told APN that, previously, the agency accepted new applications from specific areas separately. This is the first time it has collected applications from all the counties in its jurisdiction at once.
“We implemented a new software system allowing us to collect applications through an online portal. This makes for a much more customer-friendly experience than in the past,” Wiggins said.
She explained the application period is open now because DCA has processed everyone on its previous waitlist. It is an undertaking that can last for years.
First, agency staffers review the tens of thousands of applications to determine who is eligible for the vouchers based on income sources, criminal background, and other factors.
The people who qualify are placed in a lottery, which determines their place on the waitlist.
There is no telling how many people DCA will be able to serve, in part because it depends on rents set by private landlords.
“Rents are going to be different in different places. So eventually the money is tapped out. There are so many factors that go into it that it’s too hard to quantify,” Wiggins said.
For applicants, “it’s a really, really, bureaucratic stressful, process,” Prof. Deirdre Oakley, in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University, told APN.
Oakley, whose work focuses on affordable housing, said that the supply of vouchers in cities and counties across the country has never met the demand.
“It really goes back to the fact that there has been no new public housing construction since 1980, and in the meantime the federal budgets decrease, decrease, decrease,” Oakley explained.
“What we’re looking at is an affordable housing crisis,” she said.
Even for those who are successful in their quest for a housing voucher, this form of rental assistance is a stopgap measure, not a solution, to poverty.
“Housing Choice Vouchers is not an upward mobility program. It basically means that you are only paying thirty percent of whatever your income is for housing. But that’s all. It’s not necessarily saying your kids will be in better schools, you’ll be in closer proximity to better job opportunities,” Oakley said.
APN has previously reported that, while the Atlanta Housing Authority (a local agency independent of DCA) gradually replaced traditional public housing with a voucher program in order to purportedly “deconcentrate poverty” in Atlanta, voucher recipients here have been segregated into predominantly poor, Black neighborhoods.
DCA provides other resources and services in addition to Housing Choice Vouchers. The agency has programs for foreclosure prevention and downpayment assistance, and offers tax credits to developers who create affordable housing.