After 11 years, housing voucher waitlist lottery open again for Arlington Co. renters

An 11-year wait for Arlington County, Virginia, renters eager to obtain a housing voucher ends Wednesday.

The county’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly called Section 8, opens its 10-day application process for renters at 8 a.m.

The last time residents had the opportunity to get on the 5,000-slot waitlist was back in 2012.

“It was a one-day application process,” Arlington County Housing Bureau director Nicole Dula said. “We had an in-person process at that time, where 5,000 folks lined up and submitted pre-applications. It has taken us until 2023 to exhaust that list of applicants.”

The county needs to replenish its list of preapproved applicants who qualify for the voucher. As vouchers become available, housing workers will spend the next seven to 10 years going through the new list.

The 10-day application window begins Wednesday and ends at midnight on Sept. 23.

Dula said applying for a voucher doesn’t mean an automatic seat on the waitlist. The county initiated a lottery back in 2019 to eliminate the scramble of a first-come, first-served setup.

“We wanted to take the panic and fear out for folks wanting to be the first in line to fill out an application,” Dula said.

After the lottery selects which families will get on the waitlist, some are placed higher on it than others, including families struggling with homelessness or survivors of domestic violence.

Under the federally and locally-funded program, the vouchers provide renters with deep subsidies on market-rate housing in a high-cost area, like Arlington County.

The county determines how much renters receive from the program based on their income. Renters are responsible for the gap between what the voucher provides and the cost of their rent.

Families who are fortunate to obtain a voucher, usually keep it for years, Dula said, causing turnover in the program to lag for years.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” she said. “They can rent in areas of their choosing across all different ZIP codes in Arlington County and we’ll provide the subsidy.”

To apply for the voucher waitlist lottery, go to Arlington County’s website.

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