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Travis County opens applications to very low-income residents for housing voucher waitlist

Monday, June 6, 2022 by Seth Smalley

Next month, on the first of July at 8 a.m., a relatively small number of low-income residents will get the opportunity to settle or continue to stay in Travis County. That’s because the Housing Authority of Travis County is opening up its waitlist for Section 8 housing choice voucher applications to 500 people.

Eligible applicants will be chosen through a lottery/raffle system, which will be open for about a week, until July 8.

The housing choice voucher program, or Section 8, was a federal support program established in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The vouchers were intended to provide additional options to poor people who would otherwise be relegated to living in the projects. The vouchers would allow these prospective tenants to live in better neighborhoods at similar costs, instead of living strictly in government subsidized developments.

A press release from HATC explains that the Section 8 voucher “affords families the opportunity to have their rent fully or partially subsidized by a local public housing authority. Families who possess a HCV also have the ability to independently, or with assistance if they so choose, browse and select participating landlords’ properties for utilization of their HCV.”

However, Section 8 is notoriously tricky to navigate. Obtaining a voucher requires a sustained effort, a long wait and the ability to persevere through a bureaucratic hell. Even if someone qualifies for and obtains a voucher, they still may have to search for months to find private landlords who agree to accept it.

More than half of Austin landlords don’t accept Section 8 vouchers. According to the nonprofit HousingWorks Austin, less than 10 percent of developments in the Austin area accepted vouchers in 2012.

In years past, landlords have sued in Travis County to block Section 8 renters. After City Council passed a resolution that added “income source” to a list of protected anti-discrimination categories for housing applicants, the Austin Apartment Association sued to block the ordinance, protecting the landlord’s right to select tenants based on their income source.

In Travis County, applicants may not exceed the “very low” income threshold, according to their housing size. For a one-person household, that’s $34,200 in Travis County; $39,050 for two people; $43,950 for three; $48,800 for four; and $52,750 for five people in a single household.

According to, which aggregates information on federal housing assistance, HCVs pay Travis County landlords $900 per month, on average.

“We are elated to finally open our HCV waitlist after nearly eight years, due to the previous waitlist not being exhausted. There is a substantial need for affordable housing in Travis County, and we are steadfast in our efforts to alleviate the cost burden placed on families,” said Patrick B. Howard, executive director of HATC.

Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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