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

Glitches stall housing lottery

A lottery designed to help low-income people get housing vouchers suffered several setbacks during its debut Wednesday, as its phone system failed and a press release sent applicants to a non-working computer address.

Staff members at Northeast Washington Housing Solutions closed their offices at 55 W. Mission but said they would reopen today.

“We were concerned that we would be mobbed, so to speak,” said Mary Jo Braaten, director of assisted housing at the center, which was formally known as the Spokane Housing Authority.

It was the first chance for Spokane residents to apply for the program in two years because of the huge backlog in applicants after federal officials made deep cuts in the housing-assistance program. In 2005, the average family was waiting four years for help from Section 8 – the largest federal program of its kind in the country.

The lottery will offer spots on a waiting list to 2,500 people. By Wednesday afternoon, the hotline number had been repaired and the Web site had been updated.

Workers handed out applications at the Spokane County Fairgrounds on Wednesday morning, and copies were provided to several community groups that work with low-income populations.

Staff had previously emphasized that applying on the first day did not provide any advantage to the applicant. The applications can be picked up at various locations around the city but they must be returned by mail.

The lottery will be open through Oct. 26. 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.

Applications can also be downloaded via computer. Staffers estimated that more than 3,500 applications had been downloaded or picked up by applicants.

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