After 11 Years, Phoenix Accepts Section 8 Apps

PHOENIX (CN) — Phoenix was to open its Section 8 waiting list Monday for the first time in more than a decade, but advocacy groups worry that disabled residents and Spanish speakers may face obstacles in applying.
     The city will accept online applications for vouchers from 9 a.m. Monday through 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12. Vouchers, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, help low-income people and families pay rent.
     The city closed its Section 8 list in 2005 when it reached 30,000 people.
     Ten thousand applicants will be selected by lottery this week, and will be placed on a waiting list, but only 6,800 vouchers will be awarded.
     Residents who receive vouchers pay at least 30 percent of their income for rent, with the vouchers paying the rest. Amounts of the vouchers are based on income, with income ranging from $22,050 for one person to $41,550 for a family of eight.
     “We are thrilled that Phoenix can now offer this program electronically versus having residents stand in long lines and fill out applications by hand,” Housing Department Director Cindy Stotler said in a statement. “To better serve our customers, the online application will be offered in English and Spanish, residents will have several days to apply, and everyone will have an equal opportunity to get on the wait list through a lottery selection process.”
     But Jay Young, director of the Southwest Fair Housing Council, disputed that. He said the application is inaccessible for the blind and people with other reading disabilities.
     “People with disabilities who do not have access to computers with Internet access will have more limited choices of accessible locations and hours of operation where they can get assistance,” Young said in a statement. “The short five-day window to apply disadvantages people with disabilities who may have to make arrangements for specialized transportation that may take several days to schedule.”
     The city says screen-reading software may be used for the application, and applicants can call it for help or accommodations.
     Accommodations can be made for residents with disabilities who call the city and leave a voicemail, stating the accommodation requested. Phoenix started accepting such requests last week.
     For residents without computers, Phoenix has provided a list of libraries and community centers where the application can be completed.
     Enrique Medina, director of Arizona Fair Housing Center, said that’s not enough.
     “The city has not been proactive in its outreach and media effort to make sure that low-income families from different ethnic communities who speak other languages and people with disabilities know about this opportunity,” Medina said.
     “We fear that many people do not know they can apply because the non-English media has not been contacted to help get the word out and the city has not reached out to agencies serving people with disabilities.”
     In July, the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the William E. Morris Institute for Justice filed discrimination complaints about the online waiting process with the U. S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

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