For the first time in more than six years, Orange County will open its waiting list and allow its poorest residents to sign up for housing vouchers, said Housing Authority Manager John Hambach.
From Feb. 15 to Feb. 29, very low-income families, seniors, disabled persons and individuals will be able to file applications to receive vouchers through the federally funded "Section 8" program.
The county is allocated 10,024 of the vouchers, which it ranks in four categories: poor veterans; non-veterans who are elderly, disabled or in working families; nonworking families; and members of those groups who live outside Orange County.
The vouchers are good anywhere in the nation, but preference is given to residents of Orange County except Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana. Those cities have their own housing agencies and separate waiting lists.
Hambach said the county wants to work closely with local organizations who assist the poor to make sure as many qualified Orange County residents as possible sign up.
He said that in November 2005, the last time the list was open, the county received 18,600 applications. Because of the poor economy and high unemployment, he said, "I have a feeling it will be substantially more" this year.
Since the last time names were added to the waiting list, he said the county has been working its way through the roster of eligible recipients, granting vouchers as openings became available. The applications are ranked, with veterans given priority.
Each family or individual, except poor people on fixed incomes, contribute 30 percent of their salary to rent and the federal Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) vouchers pay the rest.
Hambach said the goal is to provide the vouchers "to persons who really need the assistance here."
Karen Roper, director of OC Community Services, stated in a news release: "A Housing Choice Voucher often provides the only means for these Orange County residents to have a safe and affordable place to live, and I encourage every eligible person to submit an application."
To qualify, at least one family member must be a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant. No one who has "engaged in illegal drug-related or violent criminal activity" will be accepted. Voucher recipients may not owe money to any public housing authority. The primary applicant must be at least 18 years old or a legally emancipated minor.
A single individual must have a yearly income of $33,750 or less. The income limitations rise with the size of the family and reach a maximum annual income of $63,600 for a family of eight.
Applications can be obtained by either logging on to the Housing Authority's website (www.ochousing.org) or calling OCHA's waiting list information line at 714-480-2740. Instructions and applications will be available online beginning Feb. 15. Applicants will be able to apply directly online or the application forms can be printed and submitted by mail or fax.
— TRACY WOOD