Arlington County opened its waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance for the first time in seven years on Tuesday and received thousands of pre-applications.
Section 8 provides rental subsidies from the federal government to households considered to be low- or very low-income. Because Arlington does not have public housing, and therefore no traditional housing authority, the county government administers the program.
About 1,400 families are enrolled in the program, said Kurt Larrick, spokesman for the county's Department of Human Services.
Federal law requires 75 percent of Section 8 assistance to go to very low-income families, or those making 30 percent or less of the area median income — or up to $32,250 for a family of four. The rest of the funds can go to those making up to 50 percent of the area median income — up to $53,750 for a family of four.
Arlington's waiting list for federal housing assistance had gradually gotten down to around 400 applicants, Larrick said, which is what prompted the county to take pre-applications for one day.
Nearly 5,300 pre-applications were submitted Tuesday. About 1,300 were submitted in person at Kenmore Middle School; the rest, via fax or email.
"There's a couple messages," Larrick said. "You don't currently have to live in Arlington to get on the waiting list. So, the demand is beyond our 26 square miles in that number. But it still shows that there are people in the community who can't afford to live here without having part of their rent subsidized."
Section 8 subsidies are capped based on an area's average rent. The renter pays up to 30 percent of their income toward rent. Beyond that, Section 8 assistance pays up to $1,282 for an efficiency in Arlington; up to $1,460 for a one-bedroom apartment; up to $2,137 for two bedrooms; and up to $3,634 for a three bedroom. Any outstanding monthly balance beyond that must be taken care of by the renter.
Any landlord can accept Section 8 payments if he or she is willing. Several do in Arlington because they see that as guaranteed payment, Larrick said.
Once on the waiting list, an applicant will be allowed to apply officially for an assistance voucher as they become available. Homeless individuals and victims of domestic violence are given priority.