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By The Skanner News
Published: 01 November 2006

For the first time in more than four years, the Housing Authority of Portland will open a new waiting list to receive federal Section 8 rent vouchers.
Applications for a chance to join the waiting list must be submitted before Nov. 17. By applying for the waiting list, applicants will enter a lottery-style drawing to be held next January. The first 3,000 names picked through the lottery will be placed on the waiting list.
"Rent assistance is a very precious resource," said Steve Rudman, executive director. "We are providing access in the fairest way we know, and we encourage anyone in need to apply."
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, allows low-income residents to find their own place and use the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent, depending on their income level. In Multnomah County, the housing authority administers the program and pays the subsidy to the landlord.
The Housing Authority of Portland has instituted several changes to make the waiting list application process as fair and accessible as possible:
Applications in the past were only available in person at housing authority-sponsored sign-up events. This time, people interested in the program can pick up or download applications and mail them in.
The housing authority has redesigned and streamlined the application to make it easier to fill out.
Applicants can attend one of five sign-up sessions during the week of Nov. 13. Held at locations around Multnomah County, the sign-up sessions offer the opportunity for housing authority staff members to answer questions and help with the application.
"The changes make it easier for people who want to fill out the application on their own without our assistance," Rudman said. "At the same time we're maintaining our service-oriented approach at sign-up sessions for those who need help."
Another change is to limit the number of names placed on the waiting list to 3,000. This change will allow the housing authority to work through the list faster and provide greater certainty regarding waiting list status.
"In the fourth year of our previous list, only one in four households still on the waiting list actually became participants," Rudman said. "Many no longer needed assistance or had moved without giving us their contact information. It took tremendous administrative effort for a very low conversion rate."
The new lottery process assigns each applicant household a randomly assigned number. The first 3,000 households drawn comprise the waiting list. Knowing their position on the list will provide residents with a rough idea of when they might expect assistance during the following two to three years.
All applications received during the open period through Nov. 17 are treated equally. It does not help to apply early or more than once. Applications are limited to one per household.
Rudman emphasized the fairness of the lottery-picked list — even for those who don't make it.
"Because the need for this resource far exceeds what we are able to provide, we know creating a limited waiting list will mean some households will not be served in this round," Rudman said. "As difficult as this outcome will be, those people will have the certainty of knowing that they must make other plans, such as applying for our public housing. They also will have the opportunity to reapply when the waiting list reopens."
For applications, eligibility requirements, dates and locations of sign-up sessions and more, visit the Housing Authority of Portland's Web site at www.hapdx.org or call the housing authority's Waiting List Hotline, 503- 802-8472.

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