PHA’s housing voucher application window begins Monday

PHA housing vouchers
The Philadelphia Housing Authority’s headquarters is on Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia.
Jack Tomczuk

For the next two weeks, the Philadelphia Housing Authority will be accepting applications to be placed on a waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8.

The HCV application window opens Monday at 6 a.m. and is set to run until 5:59 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5.

PHA’s waitlist has been closed since March 2010, and the authority is expecting tens of thousands of residents to apply for the vouchers, which provide subsidized housing for low-income individuals and families.

Officials said PHA has been flooded with phone calls and in-person visits since the announcement earlier this month that the waitlist would be reopened.

What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

With the federally-issued vouchers, recipients can search for apartments and homes to rent on the private market, provided the landlord agrees to accept the program’s payments.

The unit must pass a safety inspection, and PHA also determines whether the advertised rent is reasonable. If everything goes well, the tenant’s rent is capped at around 30% of their income or $50, whichever is greater, with PHA paying the remainder.

PHA currently oversees about 19,000 vouchers.

Who is eligible for a voucher?

Someone in the household must be a U.S. citizen or possess legal residency for a family to qualify for the HCV program.

Additionally, applicants cannot exceed income limitations, which depend on family size. For an individual, the cap is $36,900, and, for a five-person household, the limit is $56,950.

Anyone can apply, but, during this application process, PHA is instituting a preference for people who live, work or have been hired to work within Philadelphia.

How do I apply?

PHA is encouraging people to apply online at www.pha.phila.gov. There is no paper form, though anyone lacking internet access can apply by calling 215-999-3102 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. through Feb. 5.

Those interested in applying should be ready with basic personal information (phone number, mailing address, Social Security Number) as well as the combined annual income for everyone in their household.

The online form should take less than 10 minutes to complete, according to a how-to video published by PHA. The application is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese and Russian.

Anyone with questions about the application can call 215-999-3102.

What happens after I apply?

Once the window closes Feb. 5, PHA plans to select 10,000 households through a lottery to add to the waiting list. Everyone will be notified of whether their application was accepted by March 1, officials have said.

Of the 10,000 added to the list, 2,000 are expected to receive a voucher in the coming months.

Previously, the list was first-come, first-serve, and there was not a limit to how many applications were accepted. PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah told reporters the process was changed to allow the waitlist to be reopened sooner the next time around.

PHA estimates that it will take three-to-five years to distribute vouchers to all the qualifying applicants picked in the lottery.

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