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For first time in nearly 20 years, Cook County opens suburban housing voucher waitlist. At least 10K people already applied.

Monday, October 19, 2020
Chicago Tribune
by Alice Yin

At least 10,000 people have applied to join suburban Cook County’s housing voucher program since officials announced on Monday morning its waitlist will open up for the first time in nearly two decades.

At 8:30 a.m., the Housing Authority of Cook County reopened applications for the Housing Choice Voucher waitlist that has been closed since 2001, Executive Director Richard Monocchio said during a news conference. The program subsidizes rent for households living in private rentals by using funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Ten thousand applicants in three hours I think speaks to the incredible, incredible need for affordable housing in not only Cook County, but you know, this is emblematic of the entire country,” Monocchio said shortly after noon.

Applicants can go to http://myportal.thehacc.org until 4:30 p.m. Nov. 2 to put their names in for a randomized lottery to get on the final waiting list, which will be capped at 10,000 households. To qualify, an applicant’s income must be less than 50% of the area’s median income, or about $45,500 for a family of four, and they must seek units within the housing authority’s jurisdiction of suburban Cook County, Monocchio said. The vouchers subsidize the difference between 30% of the applicant’s household income and the cost of rent.

The revival was neither spurred by the coronavirus pandemic nor a change in federal funding for affordable housing, which Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said has been at most stagnant for decades. Monocchio said there was simply a “huge supply and demand issue” with getting through a waitlist of about 70,000 from 2001 without significant additional help from HUD.

Preckwinkle said thousands of Cook County residents will be lifted from poverty because of the reopening of the waitlist, but she wants more help from the federal government as the economic fallout from COVID-19 rattles housing security for vulnerable residents.

No one — no one — should have to choose between paying their rent or feeding their family or being able to clothe their children or fill a prescription,” Preckwinkle said. “COVID-19 has made these difficult decisions, choices between food and shelter, even harder. And unfortunately, the federal government through its own inaction has only exacerbated this problem.”

More than 15,000 people in Cook County already participate in the voucher program, which is separate from the housing complexes owned and operated by the housing authority. An additional 6,000 people are on the current waitlist and will need to be sorted through over the next few months before the new batch of 10,000 awardees are selected. For those 10,000, it may take up to four years to receive the voucher, Monocchio said.

Commissioners Donna Miller, D-Lynwood, and Alma Anaya, D-Chicago, both said a flood of constituents have approached their offices about potentially being displaced from their homes since the pandemic started.

“It is time that we need to continue to say that housing is a human right,” Anaya said. “Again, housing is a human right.”

 



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