DC Housing Authority to Freeze Waiting List
With more than 66,000 families and individuals currently on a waiting list for affordable housing, the District of Columbia Housing Authority is planning to call for a temporary halt on new applications.
Housing officials say they hope to purge the waiting list of applicants who are no longer looking for housing and to give those who have been on the list for years a realistic sense of how much longer they may need to wait.
“We need to determine the true size of the list,” said DCHA spokeswoman Dena Michaelson. “It’s a matter of managing expectations.”
Right now, families applying for a four-bedroom apartment can expect to wait for 10 years for a suitable unit. The wait for a studio apartment is estimated to be 43 years.
The housing authority has the ability to subsidize and place people in about 22,000 housing units through the use of rental assistance vouchers, subsidized apartments and public housing.
“We are the city’s largest landlord,” said DCHA Deputy Executive Director Nathan Bovelle. “We house ten percent of the population of the District of Columbia.
Even so, he added, the need for lowcost housing consistently exceeds the demand.
“There is no secret that there is a shortage.”
Bovelle, speaking at a recent meeting of the Coalition of Housing and Homeless Organizations (COHHO), acknowledged that any plan to freeze the affordable housing waiting list could cause alarm. He stressed the authority is choosing its words carefully in moving forward with the plan.
“DCHA will close the waiting list. That sounds really scary,” he said. “We’re suspending the intake of new applications to the waiting list.”
And he spoke of the inevitable challenges involved in suspending a list that has remained open for years. . “How do we pick a good date?” he asked. “How do we not harm anybody while we are cleaning the list?”
Bovelle said that in the process of cleaning the list, the housing authority will try to reach all current applicants to determine whether they still require housing. That too will be potentially complicated.
“How do you reach out to the person who lives under a bridge or who has no fixed address?”
Some of those present at the meeting spoke personally about the pain and frustration of waiting for public housing.
“There probably won’t be enough in our lifetimes,” said one woman. “You put your name on a list and you aren’t gonna get no daggone housing.”
Added another: “We are waiting for people to die to get housing.”
The housing authority is working with charities and shelters to make sure that currently homeless people are signed up before the list is suspended, Michaelson said. The date for suspending the list has not yet been determined.