Olmsted County received 1,502 applications for housing vouchers within a week.
“I think the overall need is greater than the number, but it’s about what we anticipated the turnout to be,” Olmsted County Housing Director Dave Dunn said of the effort to create a new waitlist.
The opening for applications closed at midnight Tuesday.
The next steps with be preparing a lottery to reduce the number of applicants to 500. They would then join a waitlist for local vouchers in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program.
Also known as Section 8, the program offers qualified households the ability to afford rental housing in the private market. Families can find housing with participating landlords and pay approximately 30 percent of the household’s annual income for rent. The federal program subsidizes the remaining cost by paying the landlord.
Olmsted County’s HRA has approximately 550 vouchers in use. When someone with a voucher moves off the program due to employment changes or other factors, the voucher can be passed to the next qualified household on the waitlist.
Dunn said the lottery will limit the number of people on the local waitlist to ensure it doesn’t remain closed for too long.
The list was last opened in 2012, and ended up with 1,200 households. It has taken nearly seven years to go through most of the names on the list, which is required before a new list can be created.
By limiting the list to 500 households, Dunn said the county hopes to reopen a list every two years.
Dunn said approximately 25 households remain on the 2012 list, and they will have the first opportunity to obtain vouchers as they become available.
However, he expects people rising to the top of the new list will have a chance to receive vouchers by early next year.
Once the lottery is complete and families put on the waitlist are notified in December, county housing staff will confirm qualifications and start providing vouchers as they become available.
The list will be prioritized based on preferences established by the Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Board, which consists of county commissioners and one community member who uses housing services.
The preferences established earlier this year, along with attributed points for ranking, are:
• Four points for Olmsted County residents.
• Two points for families who work at least 20 hours a week in Olmsted County, attend full-time post-secondary education classes in the county, or those having a member who is elderly or disabled.
• One point for families who are homeless.
It gives individual families the chance to earn up to seven points.