For those with Section 8 vouchers, finding suitable housing difficult

By: Kate Giammarise

Published: June 20, 2016

It can take years to get a Section 8 voucher in Pittsburgh. But it takes just four months to lose it.

Pittsburgh’s voucher waiting list has about 5,000 families on it, but once a family gets one, the clock starts ticking. The recipient must find a qualified residence within 120 days and, because of a shortage of units and willing landlords, that’s often very difficult.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly referred to as Section 8, is the largest federal program for assisting low-income people to find affordable housing in the private rental market. A family that receives a voucher must find a rental unit that meets a minimum standard and can pass a quality inspection. A subsidy is then paid by the housing authority administering the program directly to the landlord; the family pays the difference between the actual rent and the subsidy.

Pittsburgh is in the midst of an examination of how to best preserve and expand its supply of affordable housing, particularly as several East End neighborhoods have grappled with relatively rapid transformations and rising rents.

Millions of dollars in federal funding allocated to Pittsburgh for housing vouchers doesn’t ultimately end up being used for vouchers, and some ends up funding redevelopment of the city’s older public housing sites into new, mixed-income communities. The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh says it is developing affordable housing that will be available in the future. But that funding decision means that for now the mismatch between available housing and needy residents continues.

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Thousands on waiting list, but not enough available units