Austin's affordable housing waitlist out of reach for many

Walk the streets downtown or go out to eat it and you'll hear it: Austin is expensive. And that's making it nearly impossible for programs like section 8 housing - or affordable housing - to open up their doors to help new residents.

AUSTIN - The City of Austin is changing by the minute, but the demand for housing doesn't seem to be catching up with the population.

The Housing Authority of the City of Austin says 1,100 people are currently on the waiting list for a housing choice voucher. The list has been closed for more than two years because of a backlog.

Housing Authority officials say about 150 vouchers will go out this year, which is 300 fewer than in 2016.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD, teams up with cities like Austin to provide a federal government program for assisting low-income families in their efforts to afford a house in the private market.

In order to qualify, families have to be 50 percent below the median area income, which is a little under $40,000 based on a family of four.

The last time the Housing Authority opened up the waiting list was almost three years ago in October of 2014. During that time, the housing department took in 19,000 applications but only processed 2,500.

Rising rent in Austin is making matters worse. President Donald Trump has also suggested cutting funding to the program by 13 percent or more than $6 billion.

Many people wonder if the problem will ever get better.

"It really depends on how many families we can house in a given year and so I really see that we probably won't be opening the wait list for at least a few years to come," said Lisa Garcia with the Housing Authority.

A 2012 audit by the Austin Tenants Council stated that only six percent of apartment units they surveyed would accept vouchers.

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