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Amid pandemic, Atlanta Housing chipping away at 24,000-person waitlist

Sean Keenan

By Sean Keenan

Stacked with more than 24,000 people, the waitlist for voucher assistance from Atlanta’s housing authority is still plenty daunting, but Atlanta Housing (AH) officials — during a viral pandemic, no less — are still chipping away at the long roster.

Amid the public health crisis, AH officials haven’t been able to process applications as quickly as normal,  Karen Young, an agency spokeswoman, pointed out to SaportaReport in a recent email.

In 2018, AH granted 824 people from the waitlist Housing Choice assistance, according to agency records obtained by SaportaReport. In 2019, the agency processed 841 new admissions.

So far in 2020, though, just 196 applicants have graduated from the waitlist to receive voucher assistance.

“On the waitlist — the last time the waitlist was opened in 2017 — 30,000 people were randomly selected from applicants and we’re down around 25,000,” Young said in a May 19 email. “You aren’t going to see huge drops in that number, especially over the past two months because the rate at which we can pull and assess people for admission is slow, and the admissions rate is only about 30 percent, anyway.”

Applicants can be disqualified if they don’t meet the work requirements for the program, if they’ve owned a home in the past three years or if their liquid assets exceed $10,000, among other stipulations, AH materials say.

“Typically, we are not housing 1,000 new people per month — more like pulling a couple hundred for admission, and processing about 150 moves per month, divided between admissions and those moving from one unit to another,” Young said. “We’ve been averaging about 1,200 new families per year in the [Housing Choice Voucher Program].”

So, while it’s heartening that AH is still working to reduce the amount of people awaiting help with housing, agency CEO Eugene Jones has acknowledged that the future of funding for affordable housing could be grim, due to the coronavirus.

During a June 2 webinar hosted by Bisnow, Jones, asked how the economic impact of the virus could affect municipal budgets for affordable housing, said, “I don’t think it’s gonna look pretty.”

But, he added, it’s still too soon to know exactly how much funding for housing authorities will be diminished.

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