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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Housing lottery will add families to waiting list

A federal housing program will hold a 10-day “lottery” to add 2,500 low-income Spokane families to its waiting list for rental vouchers.

The lottery will only allow applicants access to the waiting list – not a guarantee of immediate help, according the Spokane Housing Authority, which does business as Northeast Washington Housing Solutions.

“We will be reaching the last part of the (waiting) list in three to four years,” said Steve Cervantes, executive director of the group.

The lottery will be open from Oct. 17 through Oct. 26 by mail only.

The waiting list for federally subsidized housing closed more than two years ago after officials said that cutbacks had left the program swamped with applicants. In 2005, the average family waited four years for Section 8 assistance – the largest federal program of its kind in the country.

Today, Cervantes said, the housing authority contacts about 200 clients each month, but only 30 percent of those people ever secure a unit. More than 4,000 clients receive help in Spokane.

To qualify, applicants must earn 50 percent or less of the area’s median income. A family of four, for example, must earn less than $28,800. Typically about 30 percent of a recipient’s adjusted gross income goes to pay for rental housing while the vouchers make up the difference.

Rents have begun to rise across the city, which concerns housing advocates, Cervantes said.

“We’re hearing of the housing crisis in the downtown area, compacted by the rise in rental rates,” he said.

In a policy shift, the local housing authority will no longer give a preference to the elderly, disabled or homeless. Cervantes said he met with several community advocacy groups, which agreed that the new policy provided a more equitable means of disbursing the vouchers.

“That’s the real tough part,” Cervantes said. “How do you measure need?”

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