PI Original Adam Doster Thursday April 17th, 2008, 1:02pm

The CHA's Housing Lottery

As we mentioned in the Early Bird, during the next four weeks, low-income Chicago families will be given the first opportunity since 1997 to put their names on the city's Section 8 housing voucher waiting list. Depending on how fast the city's 35,000 vouchers turn over, the...

As we mentioned in the Early Bird, during the next four weeks, low-income Chicago families will be given the first opportunity since 1997 to put their names on the city's Section 8 housing voucher waiting list. Depending on how fast the city's 35,000 vouchers turn over, the "winners" could receive their placement any time between this summer and the next decade. Despite the long wait and even longer odds, more than 200,000 people are expected to apply for the 40,000 open spots.

Demand for housing subsidies has skyrocketed for a number of reasons. The first is the CHA's Plan for Transformation, now eight years old, which called for the demolition of the city's segregated high-rise public housing buildings and the construction of mixed-income developments. Families that were evicted from the 25,000 high-rise units were moved to the top of the Section 8 waiting list, and as the city has struggled to build the new housing stock -- at the end of 2007, CHA had reportedly completed 64.7 percent of its proposed housing goal -- a bottleneck has developed.

The Tribune reports that Latinos, previously shut out of CHA services, are now being included as well:

Another factor is ethnicity. In 1996, CHA settled a lawsuit with Latino leaders who said Latinos had been shut out of housing assistance. As part of the settlement, 15,000 Latino names were added to the 1997 voucher wait list, said Ofelia Navarro, executive director of the Spanish Coalition for Housing, a Chicago non-profit group.

And as we wrote last week, you can't but worry about Chicago's unsustainable rental housing market, where working folks with stagnating wages are having difficulty paying increasingly high market rates.

The solution is an easy one -- the city and state need to invest in more affordable housing stock. The 2008 policy priorities put forward by Housing Action Illinois include a few measures that would go a long way toward weaning working people off the Section 8 waiting list. Check them out here.

Image courtesy of Patricia Evans.

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