PHA boss gives update on housing vouchers, timeline for waitlist

PHA Housing
The Philadelphia Housing Authority’s headquarters is on Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia.

In 2023, the Philadelphia Housing Authority re-opened the Housing Choice Voucher program for two weeks, allowing Philadelphians to apply for the first time in 12 years. 

PHA received more than 37,000 applications. 

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) is funded federally by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but managed locally by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. These vouchers do exactly what their name implies, they provide funds for lower-income people to choose the housing that suits their needs. 

In an interview with Metro Philadelphia, PHA CEO Kelvin Jeremiah gave updates on the Philadelphia Housing Choice Voucher system following its brief opening in 2023.

PHA housing
Philadelphia Housing Authority president and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah, right, speaks with U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, at PHA’s North Philadelphia headquarters.JACK TOMCZUK / METRO FILE PHOTO

“At the end of that two week period, we received over 37,000 applications,” said Jeremiah, adding that the submissions were then placed into a random lottery and 10,000 recipients were selected. 

The 10,000 recipients received a message saying that they were selected and the number of their selection directly correlates with their order in line.

“At the time of their selection, they received a letter from PHA saying that, ‘you’ve been selected and your number on the waiting list is number 10 or number 10,000,’” explained Jeremiah.

Philadelphia Housing Authority president and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah speaks Monday, Jan. 9, at a news conference about the Housing Choice Voucher program.Jack Tomczuk

Those numbers are randomly generated and are not sorted based on criteria, Jeremiah explained. “At the time that they submit, and we call them in, we assess their needs… eligibility, income. We are not prioritizing because we understand that everyone who submits essentially believes that they have an urgent need.” 

As for when all the 2023 lottery winners will be served, Jeremiah expressed “we expect to have exhausted that current 10,000 in three years.” 

The PHA’s VP of Communications Nichole L. Tillman explained: “more than 2,000 applicants have been processed from the 2023 Waitlist so far. Of those, 711 have leased their first HCV unit and another 700 are currently shopping. The remainder are currently in process.”

Meaning, Philadelphia residents with ticket numbers 1 through 2,000 have been serviced and the proceeding numbers should expect movement on their Housing Choice Vouchers between now and the next three years depending on your number in line.

The PHA waitlist will likely not be opened again until 2027.

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

According to Jeremiah, the reason the PHA re-opened the application process for the Housing Choice Voucher was because “we wanted to exhaust that old 2010 waiting list first, and secondly, to create a process that would allow us to reopen it with the understanding that we are fully aware of the demand that exists.”

The previous waitlist took 13 years to work through, the current list is on pace to have been handled in four or five years.