1,261 more rental vouchers coming to low-income Southern California renters

The Biden Administration is allocating $20.2 million to provide an additional 1,261 Section 8 rental vouchers to low-income tenants in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday, Sept. 23.

While desperately needed, the new “Housing Choice” vouchers represent less than 1% of all Section 8 recipients in the four-county area.

Nevertheless, the additional assistance still is greatly appreciated, said Judson Brown, housing division manager for Santa Ana, which is getting 38 additional slots.

The city received more than 20,700 applications when it reopened its waiting list last May for the first time in seven years, Brown said. A lottery was used to trim that number to 7,500, and Brown expects it will take another seven to eight years for the last family on that list to get one of the city’s 3,025 vouchers.

“We only have 3,000 vouchers, so the response was absolutely overwhelming,” Brown said. “So, 38 new vouchers for our residents or for our community is greatly appreciated.”

The new vouchers are part of a nationwide allocation of more than 19,000 new vouchers, a HUD statement said. They come on top of 69,000 emergency housing vouchers the Biden administration approved for people facing homelessness or domestic violence. Funding for those 88,000 additional vouchers came from the American Rescue Plan and this year’s federal budget.

HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said the new vouchers are part of “a historic expansion” of the nation’s 48-year-old program, which fills the gap between what low-income households can afford and what landlords charge.

In addition to the 19,000 vouchers, the administration is seeking $1.6 billion in next year’s budget to boost the number of vouchers by 200,000 or 8%.

“The Administration … is fighting for an additional increase to the program,” the HUD fact sheet released Friday said.

Santa Ana’s seven- to eight-year waiting list is typical for housing agencies locally and across the country.

Even getting a voucher is no guarantee recipients can find a rental since they must compete with higher-income tenants in the tightest housing market in at least two decades.

“The need is astronomically larger than the amount of funding that we’re receiving,” Brown said. “So we’re very excited about any proposal to expand the Housing Choice Voucher Program.”

The current federal budget authorized HUD to spend more than $24 billion on 2.6 million vouchers nationwide.

In California, about 350,000 tenant households receive Section 8 vouchers, and Southern California’s four-county region has funding for 142,000 vouchers.

Southern California is getting the lion’s share of California’s new vouchers unveiled Friday, with the four-county area accounting for 57% of the 2,225 new vouchers and $36 million allocated to 81 California housing agencies.

The city of Los Angeles will add 450 vouchers to the 51,119 it already administers, HUD figures show. The county of Los Angeles is adding 234 vouchers to its current pool of 25,778.

Thirteen city programs in L.A. County will receive a combined total of 196 additional vouchers.

Orange County’s four housing authorities, which already administer 11,135 vouchers, will get an additional 198 new slots.

The allocation will add 99 vouchers to San Bernardino County’s current allotment of 11,159, and 84 to Riverside County’s allotment of 9,885.

Housing programs in Compton, Torrance, Hawthorne and Hawaiian Gardens, which have a combined allotment of 2,361 vouchers, didn’t get any new slots.

UPDATE: This post was revised to correct the number of new vouchers received in Southern California.