Kern County Housing Authority reopens Section 8 waiting list

December 29, 2021 /

Next month—for the first time in a decade—the Housing Authority of the County of Kern (HA) will be reopening its Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program Waiting List, otherwise known as “Section 8 Vouchers.”

The HCV program is the federal government’s major program to help low-income families, the elderly and the disabled afford decent, safe and sanitary housing. The Housing Authority contracts with landlords to help pay for voucher recipients’ rents.

The HCV Program Waiting List will open on January 28, 2022 at 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on February 28, 2022. Heather Kimmel, Assistant Executive Director at the HA, is encouraging all interested applicants to visit the HA portal and register an account now. By registering ahead of time, interested applicants will be able to log into their account on January 28 and select apply. Applications will only be accepted online.

In addition to the reopening of the Waiting List, the HA is now adopting a new, annual process for HCV Waiting List applications.

“Each year around this time, the Waiting List will reopen and families will apply again to remain on the list and it’s an opportunity for new families to join the list,” Kimmel announced during a press conference Wednesday morning. “We want to make sure that as situations change in families lives that they have the ability to access this program and that it’s not closed to them.”

In 2012, approximately 17,000 individuals applied for the HCV Program during its 30-day application window. During the upcoming 30-day application window, the HA estimates that it will receive about 20,000 applications.

During Wednesday morning’s press conference, Heather Kimmel stated that the HCV Program isn’t an entitlement program, meaning that the HA won’t receive enough vouchers to meet the program’s demand. Instead, the HA receives a fixed number of vouchers each year—about 3,800—and can issue vouchers as people come off the program.

Vouchers can be used anywhere in Kern County, Kimmel also stated. The way a voucher works is: someone qualifies, they’re issued a voucher, and are instructed to go out and find a landlord in the private rental market to rent to them. From there, the HA will enter into a contract directly with the landlord.

“The beautiful thing about the Housing Choice Voucher Program is that it allows this applicant to enter the rental market as though they are any other applicant in the market,” Kimmel said. “They’re able to find a unit they like, that suits their needs, in the communities they want to live in.”

Families participating in HCV programs pay 30 percent of their income towards their monthly rent. For each voucher, the Housing Authority then pays a housing subsidy directly to their landlord to cover the family’s remaining rent costs. Voucher values are established locally based on a moderately-priced rental unit. HCVs can be used to rent either an apartment or a house.

To be eligible for the program, a family cannot exceed more than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). By law, the HA must provide 75 percent of its voucher to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of AMI.

“I think when someone joins our program, there’s an immediate sense of relief. They know that financially they have this safety net now,” Kimmel stated. “I think when a landlord joins our program for the first time, there’s a sense of stability and security. Now they know that most of that rent is guaranteed—it’s going to come every month in a direct payment from the Housing Authority.”

HCV recipients are randomly selected each month from a waiting list of approved applicants. Preference may be given to applicants who are:

  1. a person involuntarily displaced due to natural disaster, governmental action, avoiding reprisals and/or victims of hate crimes,
  2. veterans, servicemen and/or servicewomen, or
  3. homeless individuals and families.

Local residents of Kern County are given preference over applicants from other communities.

When asked about the popularity of this program, Kimmel revealed that the HCV program is a safety net for low-income families as it guarantees that they can live in a unit that they otherwise would not be able to afford and decreased the amount of rent burden they may be experiencing.

“We also know that when a family experiences high rent burdens, it causes other stressors on those families. There’s an increase of domestic violence, there’s an increase of attendance issues with children in school. There’s a direct correlation between being overly rent burdened and negative impacts to that household. We’re not just providing rental assistance, we’re actually reducing rent burdens for families so they can be stabilized. Not only in their living situation and in their home, but they can be stabilized in other areas of their life as well.”

Heather Kimmel, Assistant Executive Director at Housing Authority of the County of Kern

Interested renters can learn more about the program eligibility guidelines and application requirements and get ready to join the HCV Program Waiting List today by visiting hcv.kernha.org.

Victoria Rodgers

Victoria Rodgers

Victoria Rodgers is an editor and reporter for Kern Sol News. Born in Bakersfield, CA, she received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Rockford University in Illinois. She can be reached at victoria@southkernsol.org.