Starting Monday, Low-Income Multnomah County Residents Can Enter Lottery for Housing Choice Vouchers

Image courtesy of Home Forward
The New Columbia apartments in Portland, Ore.

2,000 applicants will be chosen at random from the waiting list, which closes Friday.

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A waiting list for Housing Choice Vouchers, a form of federal rental assistance, opened to applications in Multnomah County Monday; the application period will continue through Friday. It marks the first time the waiting list has opened in seven years. 

Home Forward, the largest public housing authority in Oregon, will manage the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Funds are limited and based on a forecast of available resources, and qualifying recipients will be picked via lottery. 

A report by the Portland Housing Bureau, released in March, found that half of Portland renters qualify as “cost-burdened,” paying more than 30% of their income on rent, while one in four pays more than half. In the report, Commissioner Carmen Rubio refers to Portland’s current housing situation as a “perfect storm of market conditions,” making affordable housing scarce. These conditions include rising interest rates and inflation. 

The City of Portland declared a housing state of emergency in 2015, and since then, PHB has opened 4,300 units of affordable housing. But the city is still dogged by a lack of affordable housing, and persistent inequities in access: according to the PHB report, there isn’t a single neighborhood in Portland that is affordable to the average Black household looking for a 2-bedroom rental, and several neighborhoods are out of reach for the average household of all ethnicities. 

“Our community has banded together to build new affordable housing, but so many families are still struggling to make ends meet because of the high cost of rent and inflation,” said Dena Ford-Avery, director of housing choice vouchers at Home Forward, in a press release. “We know that these vouchers will help thousands of our neighbors find safe and stable housing.” 

Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as section 8) fill the gap in affordable housing, increasing the options for low-income families. To qualify for a voucher, applicants must make less than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI), which equates to $39,500 for an individual and $56,400 for a family of four in Multnomah County. At least one member of a household must also meet certain citizenship requirements. By covering the cost of rent in excess of 30% of a family’s income, Housing Choice Vouchers make housing options affordable that would not be otherwise. 

Every qualifying applicant who applies through the Home Forward website will be added to the waiting list, and 2,000 will be selected at random to receive HCVs. Selection will not, however, guarantee rental assistance as eligibility screenings will be done after families have been chosen via lottery. 

Anyone who believes they may qualify for a HCV is encouraged to apply, starting June 5, through the Housing Forward website