The “8” Of Section 8

It’s been a bit of a rough week, folks. Tuesday I woke up at 6:30am — it was Sharon’s big day. She had made it to the top of the Section 8 housing list, and for the first time in her forty-odd years of life, she was going to have a place of her own.  So we hoped.

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program subsidizes rent for families and individuals. As far as I can tell, it’s like a semi-privatized version of public housing, much like the whole school-voucher privatization schemes. The government pays landlords to house the otherwise-homeless, rather than building public units with state funding.

But what really blew my mind about Section 8 was the wait list. According to the Housing Authority, approval for an applicant takes between six months and eight years.

Eight years.


Sharon, Melissa and I spent four hours Tuesday morning jumping through all the necessary hoops, until we could progress no further for the day. The next step, since Sharon does not have a spotless criminal record from the last 10 years (not too unusual for the chronically homeless and near-homeless, trying to survive), is collecting letters from interested parties testifying to her upstanding character.

Shelter: a privilege reserved for the righteous?

Time for bed. Night, y’all.

One thought on “The “8” Of Section 8

  1. Lea February 11, 2010 / 10:15 am

    It’s even worse here–due to lack of funding, Section 8 officially no longer exists in New York City. For the last few years it’s only been available to DV victims (mostly only DV victims with children) and intimidated essential witnesses.

    As of mid-December though, even those few people who had received vouchers but not yet gotten an apartment were no longer eligible. As NYCHA’s website explains, “Section 8 vouchers that have been assigned to applicants who have not yet secured an apartment have been terminated and will not be honored. Should sufficient Section 8 funding become available, current voucher holders will be given priority to have their vouchers restored.” Sigh. (See:

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