King County Housing Authority sees major increase in poverty among voucher applicants

During the two-week application period, which ended on April 18, the King County Housing Authority received nearly 20,000 applications for rental assistance. The volume of applications highlights the critical need for housing assistance in the region.

Some 19,500 households with 43,012 family members, including 18,000 children, applied for assistance.

• The applications show that poverty and housing instability has increased dramatically in the region since the waiting list last opened in 2015.

• The number of households reporting zero income more than doubled, jumping from 12 percent in 2015 to 29 percent in 2017.

• The median income for all applicant households fell by nearly $1,000, when adjusted for inflation. The median income of households applying in 2017 was $8,820 per year.

• 60 percent of all applicants reported that they were currently homeless, an increase from 47 percent in 2015.

Among 2017 applicants:

• The homelessness rate among households with children increased from 44 percent in 2015 to 59 percent, an increase of 15 percent. Ten thousand children live in these homeless households.

• More than 2,750 children live in households experiencing homelessness while fleeing domestic violence.

• The number of households with at least one elderly or disabled family member increased to 56 percent of all applicants.

• Elderly households were five times more likely to have no income from any source this year than in 2015.

• The demand for housing for veterans who have served in America’s armed forces accounted for more than 700 applications. Over 400 reported that they are currently homeless.

“This response, over a brief two-week period, reveals the extent of our region’s housing crisis,” said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority. “Housing is a fundamental platform on which everything else – steady employment, educational outcomes for children, health – depends. This is a problem that impacts everyone in our community.”

A lottery is in May to determine which of the 19,462 families will be placed on the waiting list, which is capped at 3,500 slots. The first applicants on the list will be issued vouchers in June. Depending on federal funding, those at the tail end of the list could face a wait of five or more years to obtain a voucher.

Currently, KCHA provides rental assistance to 11,300 families. Generally the program pays the difference between the rent charged by a housing owner and the assisted household’s rental contribution, which is set at approximately 30 percent of the household’s income adjusted for family size and utility costs. More than 3,000 landlords participate in the program.

“With rents continuing to increase across the county by double digits, low-income households are failing to find housing they can afford,” Norman said. “This program is an essential part of our region’s safety net. Proposed federal cuts in funding will see more children, more elderly, more veterans, living on our streets.”

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