A spreadsheet showing utility costs is provided as a resource to help people factor expenses when looking for stable housing during a housing voucher meeting at RPI Management, Inc. in Dearborn, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. (Sarahbeth Maney, Detroit Free Press)

The Westland Housing Commission — one of 65 public housing agencies across the state — will open the waiting list for its voucher program next month for four days.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

The federally funded housing choice voucher program helps low-income families pay for rent. Commonly known as “Section 8,” the program is regarded as a tool to help families land housing they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. But the odds of getting on waiting lists, then being selected to receive a voucher and then finding a suitable rental home that accepts a federal voucher are slim and challenging for many.

The Westland Housing Commission will take online applications for its housing choice voucher program June 2-5. After the application window closes, a random lottery will place 1,000 people on a waiting list and preference for vouchers will be given to the elderly, people with disabilities and those who live or work in Westland. 

Anyone from across the country can apply. In order to qualify, households have to be income eligible. For instance, a family of four should make $47,350 or less. The commission is taking only online applications. Being placed on the waitlist does not guarantee a voucher because the commission must determine if a person qualifies based on federal guidelines and the funding that is available.

For more information, go to bit.ly/WestlandHousingCommission. To apply, visit bit.ly/WestlandVoucher.

The Westland Housing Commission last took new applications in June 2021. About 5,000 people applied and 1,000 were placed on the waiting list, Joanne Campbell, director of the Westland Housing Commission, told the Free Press. The wait time to get a voucher ranges from six months to two years.

The Westland Housing Commission manages 1,255 housing vouchers. The average housing assistance payment is $633 a month, Campbell said. During the first year of the program, participants must find housing in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties. After that, they can transfer the voucher to anywhere else in the country.

How the housing voucher program works

If a family is selected from a waiting list, they are encouraged to find an apartment or home. That housing must meet several criteria: health and safety approvals based on inspections and a “payment standard,” which is the cost of a rental unit in a local market that is then used to calculate how much assistance the family will get, according to HUD.

The family pays 30% of its adjusted gross income including rent and utilities, while the voucher covers the rest. The rent may go above the payment standard, but the family must pay the additional cost. By law, in that case, they can’t pay more than 40% of their monthly income for rent.

The Westland Housing Commission gives people 120 days to find a home after they’ve gotten the voucher and participants can request an extension. 

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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