Public Comment

Proposed Changes to THA’s Low-Income Housing Waitlist

January 12, 2024

The public comment period ended February 11, 2024

Tacoma Housing Authority is proposing changes to the low-income housing waitlist. The changes will not impact people currently on THA’s waitlist. Whether you are on the waitlist, have applied to the waitlist in the past, or hope to apply in the future, we want to hear your thoughts on these proposed changes!

Summary of changes

The proposed changes are as follows:

  • Separate waitlists for vouchers and units. Separate waitlists will allow families to apply for the type of assistance than fits their needs and circumstances. Applicants can apply to one or both lists.
  • Continuously open waitlist. A continuously open waitlist would allow people to apply at any time. Anyone who completes the waitlist application will be added to the waitlist. Anyone who gets removed from the waitlist can reapply at any time.
  • Frequent waitlist purges. Waitlist purges are used to ensure everyone on the waitlist is still interested and in need of assistance. A continuously open waitlist means more people are added to the waitlist. To remain on the waitlist, families would need to regularly check in to stay active on the waitlist. This will help keep the waitlist current and remove households that are not actively updating their information.
  • Random selection from the waitlist. Rather than use a lottery to put a small group of applicants on the waitlist, THA would allow anyone who applies to be added to the waitlist but would randomly pull people from the waitlist when issuing vouchers or units. This means if anyone is removed, they can simply reapply rather than petition to be reinstated to their original spot.
  • Updates to waitlist preferences. Waitlist preferences allow certain qualified households to be served before people on the waitlist in order to meet local needs and funding requirements. THA is adding a couple of waitlist preferences. At the same time, we are proposing to cap how many families are served through these preferences and specifying that we will continue to pull from the waitlist while complying with waitlist preferences (that is, serving both at the same time rather than addressing preferences before the waitlist).

Note: “Families” refers to households of any size – from 1 person to multiple.

Compare the proposed changes to THA’s current policies and practices:

TopicCurrent Policy/PracticeProposed Change
Waitlist Openings The waitlist is typically opened every couple of years for about two weeks.  Continuously open. People can apply to the waitlist at any time.  
Waitlist Housing Options The current waitlist is for both units and vouchers. Families are offered what is available when they are pulled from the waitlistSeparate waitlists. One for vouchers, one for THA units. A family can sign up for both.  
Placement on the Waitlist At the end of the waitlist opening, a lottery is held to randomly select roughly 10% of applicants to be added to the waitlist.  Once households complete the application they will be added to the waitlist.  
Waitlist Purges  THA purges the waitlist once a year or every two years to remove people who are unresponsive or no longer need assistance. Families would be required to check in regularly to remain active on the waitlist. If they are removed, they can sign up again at any time.  
Wait Times THA aims to house everyone on the waitlist within 2 years. (This is why so few are added to the waitlist.)  Unknown. THA is exploring if there is a way to increase a family’s chance of being pulled from the waitlist the longer they have been on it.  
Selection from the Waitlist Families are randomly assigned a rank and pulled in the order of how they are ranked. Families will be randomly selected from the waitlist.  
Housing ApplicationFamilies have 10 business days to complete and return the application packet and additional documentation (ID, social security cards, birth certificates, income documentation, etc.)Families on the waitlist will be encouraged and able to begin submitting documents for their application immediately.  

Once pulled from the waitlist, they have 10 business days to complete and return the application packet and additional documentation (ID, social security cards, birth certificates, income documentation, etc.) 
Waitlist Preferences  THA maintains certain waitlist preferences, allowing households to be served ahead of others on the waitlist. THA does not currently limit how many people can be served ahead of families on the waitlist.  A couple of additional preferences would be added for foster youth and people exiting permanent supportive housing. THA will cap how many people are served through waitlist preferences. 

THA will continue pulling from the waitlist while accepting families with a waitlist preference. If 5 families are served via preference, 5 families will also be pulled from the waitlist.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have developed a series of Frequently Asked Questions to help understand the details of these proposed changes.

How will this impact households currently on the waitlist?

THA will continue to work the current waitlist before implementing any changes.

When will these changes be implemented?

Since THA is in the middle of a software conversion, these changes would most likely not be implemented until after April 2024.

If there are multiple waitlists, can I apply to all of them or can I only apply to one?

You can apply to both waitlists. Once you are housed with THA assistance, you will be removed for all waitlists so that other families get a chance to be served.

I’ve applied to the waitlist in the past but was not selected in the lottery or was removed from the waitlist. Would I be allowed to apply?

Yes. Anyone would be allowed to apply, even if you applied previously and were not selected or were removed from the waitlist.

Why aren’t there preferences for households that are currently homeless?

THA has waitlist preferences for homeless households. Waitlist preferences allow these households to be served faster. People who meet these preferences are households that are homeless and working with a service provider through Coordinated Entry (the county’s centralized intake for people experiencing homelessness).

If you are homeless and in need of housing, please call 2-1-1 or visit one the facilities listed on the Tacoma Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness website to complete an intake interview for Coordinated Entry.

Won’t frequent waitlist purges make it harder for homeless households to stay on the waitlist?

Requiring households to check in frequently may pose a barrier for some people. If these changes are approved, THA plans to work with multiple community organizations to ensure families with barriers can access the client portal and remain active on the waitlist. Further, randomly pulling people from the waitlist will ensure that if someone misses a check-in and has to reapply, they are not penalized.

Additionally, as mentioned in the previous question, our waitlist preferences help ensure households with the greatest barriers are able to be referred directly to THA from a partner agency when vouchers and units are available.

If the waitlist is always open, doesn’t that mean more people will be on the waitlist and lead to longer wait times?

Yes. An open waitlist often means a significantly larger number of people applying for housing assistance. However, this is why frequent waitlist purges would be important. Requiring families to actively update their waitlist status and allowing them to compile documents for the application will help ensure the time between being pulled from the waitlist and getting housed is as short as possible.

This is also one of the reasons we propose pulling randomly from the waitlist – it allows households a chance at being served quickly because when they are pulled is not based on when they applied.

Last, we are exploring if there are ways to increase a family’s odds of being pulled from the waitlist if they have been waiting longer than the majority of applicants.

If I get removed or withdrawn from the waitlist, when can I reapply?

You can reapply immediately.

Will these changes increase my likelihood of getting assistance through THA?

Simply put, no. Changes to the waitlist policy will not create more housing and will not increase THA’s funding. (They also don’t lead to a decrease in housing or funding.)

These changes would help THA have more accurate data on the need for housing in the community. This can help inform development and inform THA decision making. In the long run this can help THA figure out how to best meet the needs of the community.

We want to hear from you!

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