Long wait for Section 8 housing in Waterloo - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Long wait for Section 8 housing in Waterloo


The wait for affordable housing in Waterloo is at an all-time high.

The Waterloo Housing Authority said 1,106 people use Section 8 housing, and 2,500 people are waiting.

Kristen Kruse has been on the Section 8 waiting list in Waterloo for almost four years. Kruse is a single mom and full-time student. Her son has chronic lung disease, making it difficult for her to go to a shelter.

"I don't understand how you can send people away who literally don't have anywhere to go," Kruse said.

Director of the Waterloo Housing Authority Ethel Washington said they do their best.

"You can't help everybody," she said. "You'd like to, but you just can't do it."

For Kruse, the years of waiting for assistance have taken a toll.

"It's like kicking someone when you're down. There has to be a better way. If people are getting turned away for four years, what happens during those four years? Are they staying in shelters? Are they staying in cars? Are they staying in parks? You never know what can happen in four years," said Kruse.

Washington said the Waterloo Housing Authority accepts applications every Thursday, and it usually has about 15-20 people sign up for Section 8 each week.

"They can apply here, but can also apply in other areas like Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls' list is shorter than ours so if they came onto a program in Cedar Falls that's a lot sooner than what we have," she said.

For Kruse, moving to Cedar Falls was not an option.

"Who does that? Who recommends that their own citizens go somewhere else? That's crazy," she said.

"We've come to realize that we just have to do what we can with what we have," said Washington.

The long wait for affordable housing has created barriers for organizations like Families First and Operation Threshold who work to help people and families become self-sufficient.

Family Development Manager at Operation Threshold, Mindy Dolan, issued the following statement regarding the waiting list for Section 8:

"Many of the families we serve at Operation Threshold are in the need of safe, affordable housing. We see families who are living at the shelter, having to double up with family/friends, or are in threat of eviction. A single mom with one child receiving FIP only gets $361 a month. The only way to afford rent, and live on your own, with that amount of income is to live in a subsidized apartment or to be on Section 8. We have families that sit on the Section 8 waiting list for five years and during that time they may have been evicted several times because they can't afford the rent, utilities, bill, and other essentials with the amount of money they are making. Many of the referrals we receive for the Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS) program state that there is a housing need. Our Specialists always refer our families to apply for Section 8, but they are also coming up with a "plan B" because they know the waiting list is so long. And many times the "plan B" is figuring out what informal support they have in the area or seeing if there is openings at the homeless shelter.

Tenant Base Rental Assistance (TBRA) is a program families can apply for at Operation Threshold that assist with first month's rent and deposit. Part of this process includes an inspection completed by a certified housing inspector. This is very beneficial to the families and insures they are moving into a safe place, however sometimes finding a rental unit that will pass inspection or finding a land lord that is willing to make the updates/repairs is a challenge too. There is also always more applicants than there is funding for this program too.

Too many families aren't sure where they are going to lay their head down at night. This effects kids schooling, parent's self-esteem, and the overall dynamics of the family. The lack of affordable safe housing in Black Hawk County has been a struggle for several years."

Washington said the Waterloo Housing Authority will continue doing the best it can with the resources it has to help those with housing needs.

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