Columbia Housing Authority Opens Section 8 Pre-Applications

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COLUMBIA- Thursday the Columbia Housing Authority started handing out pre-application forms for the Section 8 housing choice vouchers.


Residents can start turning in their applications in-person at 201 Switzler St. on Monday October 8, and they will be accepted through Friday October 12. The applicant must present a valid photo ID. 


The last time the housing authority took applications for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program was in June 2015, said Columbia Housing Authority CEO Phil Steinhaus.


“We opened the waiting list for one week and we took over 1200 applicants,” said Steinhaus. “We expect to take between 1,200 and 1,500 applications the week of October the eighth.” 


The wait list runs on a lottery system. When applicants turn in their forms, they will be given a random number that secures their place on the wait list.


The process used to operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, said Steinhaus. 


“It’s not fair to the elderly, a person with disabilities, or people who have jobs that can’t afford to take off work to do that and so we went to a lottery system,” he said.


According to staff members at the housing authority, about 100 people picked up pre-applications on Thursday.


Preferred applicants are those who work an average of 20 hours or more per week, have a disability, are elderly, or have been honorably discharged. 


The program currently serves 1,062 households in the Columbia area. 


Section 8 vouchers allow for low-income residents to get assistance paying for their rent. Residents must pay 30 percent of their household income towards rent, and the housing authority will cover the difference. 


Landlords decide if they will accept these vouchers as a way to pay for rent. The residents are responsible for covering utilities. 


Residents, like Alicia Cole, are in charge of finding their own housing. The housing must meet Columbia Housing Authority requirements, such as the number of bedrooms in the house.

“It’s kind of hard because you have to find a place, a landlord, just like you would any other time,” she said.


Cole currently lives in public housing, but hopes to switch to the Section 8 program.

Once applicants turn in their forms, they'll have to wait until their number is called on the wait list. Columbia Housing Authority does not guarantee that applicants will receive rental assistance.