Los Angeles residents struggling to make monthly rental payments aren’t likely to find relief from the county’s Housing Authority any time soon—not unless they’ve already been waiting for quite some time.
The Daily News reports that about 40,000 people are now on the wait list for Section 8 rental assistance vouchers, with those on the list facing average wait times of about 11 years.
That information was presented to the County Board of Supervisors last week by Housing Authority Deputy Executive Director Emilio Salas. He noted that the agency is now prioritizing homeless residents, with 35 percent of vouchers distributed to homeless residents identified by the county and the remainder given to homeless members of the wait list.
Given the level of demand for the vouchers, the agency is no longer accepting new applicants for the wait list. Moreover, residents currently on the list who haven’t self-identified as homeless won’t be able to receive rental assistance in the immediate future.
Under the section 8 program, renters making less than half the area median income can apply for rental assistance from local housing authorities. In Los Angeles, where rental prices are among the highest in the nation, it’s perhaps not a great surprise that the vouchers are in such high demand.
But the city and county are also struggling to address rising levels of homelessness in the area, and Salas noted in the meeting that the agency had begun prioritizing the homeless at the board’s request.
He also said that when the wait list was closed several years ago, it included around 200,000 names. The agency later whittled that number down to 60,000 by purging those who no longer needed assistance or were ineligible.
Even as the Housing Authority gives out new vouchers though, Section 8 renters often face discrimination from landlords hesitant to make units available to them. The problem has become widespread enough that the Housing Authority now offers landlords incentives like a “guaranteed damage mitigation fund” for accepting tenants using the vouchers.