Georgia gets more than 175,000 applicants for housing voucher wait list

The eye-popping number of preliminary applicants hope to be one of just 13,000 who will be put on the state’s Housing Choice Voucher wait list.
The photo shows a box of applications for housing vouchers in 2020. John Spink jspink@ajc.com

The photo shows a box of applications for housing vouchers in 2020. John Spink jspink@ajc.com

Editor’s note: This story has been adjusted to reflect that the state is opening a wait list to 13,000 applicants.

More than 175,000 Georgians applied for just 13,000 slots on a wait list for housing vouchers to help low-income people and families cover their rent, according to the state’s Department of Community Affairs.

The eye-popping number of preliminary applications — 177,443 in total — were made to the state’s Housing Choice Voucher wait list. The wait list opened on Oct. 17, and closed on Friday Oct. 20, just before midnight. It’s the first time since 2021 that the voucher wait list has been opened to add eligible applicants.

For those who qualify, the voucher program subsidizes part of their rent. Renters then shop for an apartment they can afford, and pay the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.

Rent costs climbed dramatically during the early pandemic years, but in the past year, rent growth has slowed in Atlanta, according to a report from Apartment List. The for-sale housing market, meanwhile, has its own challenges. Sale prices also accelerated during the pandemic, but growth has plateaued. Still, with mortgage rates now near 20-year highs, purchasing a home remains out of reach for many and relatively few homes are listed for sale in the metro area.

“Rent checks are often the first and largest payment families across Georgia make each month. As housing costs continue to rise at all income levels, the Housing Choice Voucher program is a critical tool to ensure thousands of Georgians all around the state can maintain safe and stable housing,” Philip Gilman, DCA Deputy Commissioner for Housing Assistance and Development, said in a statement earlier this month.

Eligibility for the Housing Choice Voucher Program is determined by total annual gross income and family size. A person’s adjusted income must be at or below 50% of the area’s median income for the county where they live. The voucher goes towards paying a portion of their rent.

The voucher program is funded totally by federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. DCA administers the voucher program in 149 of the state’s 159 counties, but not some of the largest metro counties. The 10 counties DCA does not administer are: Bibb, Chatham, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Glynn, Muscogee, Richmond, and Sumter. Those counties are served by their respective housing authorities.

DCA will use a lottery system to select names to be added to the waitlist, according to the department. This will ensure all applicants are given equal opportunity, regardless of when they submitted an application.

Last year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on how some Georgians, who have a commitment from the federal government through the Housing Choice Voucher program to pay their rent, can’t find housing. Housing experts said the issue with vouchers is multi-layered; landlords in Georgia are not required by law to accept them. There’s also the red tape and bureaucracy that landlords must navigate when accepting vouchers.

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