I’m Jan Rakes and I work as an intern at the Bloomington Housing Authority (BHA). I recently looked into how the Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) waitlist works and who signs up for it. This year’s waitlist was open from December 9, 2014 to April 9, 2015.
When I asked Daniel Harmon, the HCV Supervisor, how the waitlist works, I learned the following. Public Housing Authorities may keep their waiting lists open all the time or they may only accept applications for a shorter, designated time period. Housing Authorities may choose either system depending on local needs and circumstances. However, all Authorities must maintain an efficient and effective list with enough waiting applicants to receive any number of vouchers that become available in a quick fashion. At the same time, the waiting list should not grow to be too large, which might make wait times unreasonably long.
After learning how the waitlist works, I wanted to find out more about the people who seek housing assistance through the HCV (aka Section 8) program. I thought the demographics of those on the waitlist would be similar to Bloomington’s in most ways. Surprisingly to me, the demographics of those seeking assistance and the Bloomington population in general are quite different in some aspects.
There are 694 Heads of Household on the waitlist. These 694 families include 819 adults and 550 minors (See Figure 1). This means 1369 more people will be helped by the HCV program in the future. Of those waiting for a housing assistance, 40% are minors. Female heads of households are 70% of all households that apply (See Figure 2). 44% of households have minors in their families, and female heads of household with children account for 87.6% of all families with children (See Figure 3).
For Bloomington, women make up 49.7% of the population and households with minors are 16.6% of the population. 14% of heads of households on the waitlist are disabled people under the age of 65, which is twice the number of Bloomington. 114 families waiting for a voucher have at least one disabled family member and 126 total people have a disability. 8 of those with a disability are children. Families with at least one disabled family member make up 16% of families on the list (See Figure 4).
One HCV waitlist demographic that is similar to Bloomington’s demographics is the elderly population. The elderly population is 7.9% for all of Bloomington and 6.3% of the heads of households on the HCV waitlist (See Figure 4).
For the most part, the families who receive support from the HCV program, and the BHA in general, have incomes that are often far below the area median income. For example, 86% of families on the waiting list have an income below 30% of the area median. The remaining families have an income of between 30% and 50% of the area median (12% of families) or an income between 50% and 80% of the area median (2% of families). (See Figure 5).