When Los Angeles opens applications to join its waitlist for subsidized housing vouchers in a couple of weeks, the city’s housing authority expects that it will receive more than 600,000 applications. According to the Los Angeles Times, the waitlist’s capacity is just 20,000, which means that 580,000 of those who apply will be told, more or less, ‘Sorry, better luck next time.’
The lucky 20,000 then stand to wait up to a decade for a voucher to become available. Los Angeles has about 57,000 federally funded Section 8 vouchers in use, and only about 2,400 become available each year as recipients typically start earning more money, move, or die. Many of these vouchers will be set aside for the homeless or particular housing projects, further limiting applicants’ opportunities to escape the waitlist.
The last time LA opened up applications to join its Section 8 voucher waitlist was in 2004, when the city received a comparably light 300,000 applications.
Though New York and San Francisco are usually cited as the nation’s most expensive housing markets, Los Angeles is generally considered the most country’s most unaffordable. Angelenos typically have lower median incomes than New Yorkers or San Franciscans, and end up devoting a a higher percentage of their monthly income to housing.
A HUD report released in August determined that the majority of Los Angeles’ one million “very poor” households spent more than half of their income on rent, and found a greater share of low income people with inadequate housing in Southern California than in nearly any other major US metropolitan area.