OKC Housing Authority in 'imminent' danger of halting housing vouchers


The Oklahoma City Housing Authority is in “imminent” danger of halting housing vouchers to thousands on a waiting list just as state laws are about to ban public camping under highway bridges and on public land, including sidewalks.

The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency has yet to lift a freeze it put on accepting housing choice voucher applications last year. The local housing authority, meanwhile, faces running out of vouchers for more than 10,000 people currently on its waiting list.

The federally funded housing voucher program helps low-income families, the elderly and people who are disabled to afford housing.

Mark Gillett, director of the Oklahoma City Housing Authority, said his agency is dangerously close to a shortfall of federal funding for its housing vouchers due to “rents going through the roof”.

“Many housing authorities across the country are in the same place we are,” Gillett said. “To date in 2024, OCHA has not been officially placed into shortfall. However, based on current projections, shortfall is imminent. We are very close.”

More: Affordable housing, transportation part of plan to improve care for OK’s aging population

Thousands are on the waiting list for vouchers in Oklahoma

The housing authority as of Tuesday had 10,567 people on the waiting list for vouchers.

Holley Mangham, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Housing Finance Authority, said her agency is facing a risk it may not have sufficient funds to support the number of vouchers authorized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This could impact the low- and moderate-income families on OHFA’s waitlist, many of whom have been waiting for assistance for over two years,” Mangham said. “This is a widespread issue across the country, and without legislative intervention, it is likely to worsen.”

Meghan Mueller, CEO of the Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance, is hoping that a resolution can be found before the waiting time gets any worse for those without housing. She said in previous years the nonprofit worked with the housing authority to avoid a complete shortfall.

Why is the Oklahoma City Housing Authority facing a funding shortfall? Skyrocketing rent and the end of pandemic-era assistance

Rents in Oklahoma City have skyrocketed over the past three years, with Redfin reporting the city saw the fastest rising rents (31.7%) among the country’s 50 largest cities in 2022.

“We know rents in Oklahoma City are rising quickly relative to other places,” Mueller said. “HUD allocations don’t always keep up with those increases.”

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She added agencies and nonprofits also are faced with the end of pandemic-era assistance.

“Those funds have expired,” Mueller said. “That’s a factor. Some of those safety nets in place keeping people barely on the edge are gone, and people have fallen off the cliff and are experiencing homelessness.”

She said another challenge is the diminishing number of landlords accepting vouchers.

Jordan Sowers, left, and Trace Karpe, try to make contact with the occupant of a tent Jan. 25 during the Oklahoma City Point in Time survey, coordinated by the Homeless Alliance, to count the homeless population.Jordan Sowers, left, and Trace Karpe, try to make contact with the occupant of a tent Jan. 25 during the Oklahoma City Point in Time survey, coordinated by the Homeless Alliance, to count the homeless population.

Jordan Sowers, left, and Trace Karpe, try to make contact with the occupant of a tent Jan. 25 during the Oklahoma City Point in Time survey, coordinated by the Homeless Alliance, to count the homeless population.

The annual Point in Time census of those without housing show a 28% jump in 2024 over last year in Oklahoma City.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for a state law banning homeless camps on state properties, public land and sidewalks which is set to go into effect later this year.

“It’s a concerning time,” Mueller said. “Everyone is navigating many challenges at once. When you have this problem, and then a ban on camping, and punitive measures for those who do not have other options, it can be pretty scary.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OKC may halt Section 8 vouchers to thousands on waiting list



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