BOISE, Idaho — After two and a half years, Boise City / Ada County Housing Authorities (BCACHA) is reopening its area's section eight housing voucher program lottery waitlist. BCACHA said its the federal government's largest program for assisting low-income families and individuals.
As Rolando Ruano of Boise went through law school a few years back, he said the money was extremely tight for his family of five.
"In law school, you can't work, you can't do anything but go to law school," Ruano explained.
He added that his family was getting by with student loans, but even that was limited.
Now a practicing attorney, being part of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program was essential for Ruano.
"Having the opportunity to have at least rent taken care of through the voucher program was amazing because it gave us a lot of peace of mind and it gave me the ability to actually continue with my schooling, finish it up and get to the point where I have an income," Ruano said.
BCACHA plans to open pre-applications for the voucher waitlist lottery on Monday, Jan. 10, so others in need can join Ruano and hundreds of others around the area to potentially receive housing assistance.
The vouchers have qualified tenants pay a portion of their rent based on a percentage of their income, then the rest is paid to their landlord from the housing authorities' voucher program.
Deputy Director of BCACHA Jillian Patterson said their current waitlist has dwindled down to 400 families. Patterson said they are looking to add about 2,500 households to add to the waitlist, to hopefully place in the program over the new couple of years.
However, with more growth in the Boise area and impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said they expect more applicants than ever before.
"While the pandemic has highlighted many of the challenges that low-income households are experiencing, they weren't new," Patterson said. "Long before the pandemic, millions of households across the country were already experiencing housing instability or risk of homelessness because their incomes weren't enough to afford housing."
To qualify for the voucher waitlist, the applicant's head of the household must be at least 18 years old, make 50 percent or below the median income of the area and qualify for the Idaho residency preference, which means the family or individual either lives, works, or has been hired to work within the state of Idaho.
Patterson said the applicant must also meet one additional standard; either the head of household, co-head or spouse are age 62 or older or disabled, or have children under the age of 18 living with the family.
"There's usually a really heavy demand for the programs like this," Patterson said. "With applicants waiting for years to make it to the top of the list or even make it on the list."
A long wait for people like Breeana McGee, who was on the waitlist for two and half years before she got into the voucher program. The single mom said when she applied she was living at her mother's house - which was full of people - and working at night and finishing up her high school credits.
"I finally felt like I was could start the life for me and my son," McGee said about what she felt when she found out she got the voucher. "We could have our own place and it would be really good for us."
McGee still relies on the voucher program because she has not been able to work due to her and her son's medical issues. She told KTVB she meets with an advisor with BCACHA every few months to address goals and ways to live afford to live on her own.
"I don't think I could be out on my own if it wasn't for this," McGee said.
The agency said they are not just providing rental assistance, but they are also relieving rent burdens.
"They can be stabilized in other areas of their life as well," Patterson said. "Being able to afford food, clothing, medicine, those are all costs and we know with COVID has impacted everyone in this community, everyone in the world."
The lottery is a completely random draw and there is no advantage to submitting pre-applications early, according to BCACHA. Patterson reiterates that because someone is on the waitlist, does not mean they automatically get the voucher.
The pre-application opens on Jan. 10 and will close on Feb. 10. Applications can only be submitted online.
For more information on how to apply, qualifications and resources for the application click HERE.
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