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Section 8 housing list will reopen this month for the first time since 2004

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It’s estimated that 600,000 people will sign up

A cluster of dense white and beige apartments on a hillside at sunset.
In an increasingly unaffordable city, the Section 8 program is in high demand.
Tyler Lowmiller / Creative Commons

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on October 2, 2017 and has been updated with the most recent information.

For the first time in 13 years, the list for Section 8 housing vouchers will reopen in the city of Los Angeles. There are only about 20,000 spots on the waiting list for the vouchers, which offer rent subsidies to landlords in exchange for accepting low-income renters as tenants.

Tenants with Section 8 vouchers pay 30 percent of their income on rent, and in a city where rents are steadily on the rise, the vouchers are coveted—and in high-demand.

It’s estimated that 600,000 people will sign up for the program when enrollment opens for a two-week period later this month, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The open spots will be assigned via a lottery, a representative for the Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles told the Times. To qualify for Section 8, applicants must live or work in LA and have very low incomes—for a household of two people, the income ceiling is $36,050.

There are more people in-need than there are vouchers available, so “some of them may wait in line for another decade or more for their turn.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday asked the federal government to boost funding for the Section 8 program. An announcement from his office says the city was forced close its waitlist for 13 years, because there wasn’t enough federal funding.

“LA is making unprecedented investments in housing and services, because the homelessness crisis demands that we put every possible dollar to work,” Garcetti said in a statement. “Washington should meet the urgency of this crisis and increase the number of people who can get help through Section 8.”

Section 8 vouchers come available when the income of people with existing vouchers becomes too high to qualify anymore or when voucher holders die. Both are relatively rare occurrences.

Unfortunately, this year, the wait for the available vouchers might be even longer than usual.

Up to 1,000 vouchers will go toward helping to house homeless people as a part of Proposition HHH, which voters passed last year, and other vouchers could go toward the redevelopment project at Jordan Downs or projects like it. Only about half of the vouchers that become available this year will go to people on the waitlist, says the Times.

Even as the Housing Authority opens the list up to new names, getting a spot on the wait list is just the beginning. Section 8 renters can face additional hurdles trying to find landlords who will accept the vouchers. The problem is rampant enough that the Housing Authority started offering landlords incentives for accepting tenants using Section 8.

Online sign-up for the Section 8 wait list begins on October 16 at 6 a.m.