Housing help: Houston’s Housing Choice voucher program

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HOUSTON — For the first time in four years, the Houston Housing Authority is putting out the welcome mat and reopening its doors to the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

“The voucher program is an income-based program. Families who income qualify get a voucher and literally do what the title says – choose their housing with that voucher,” said Mark Thiele, the Vice President of the Houston Housing Choice voucher program.

The program — formally called Section 8 — currently helps more than 60,000 low-income Houstonians and has been around since 1938.

Around 80,000 tenants are expected to apply, and more than 30,000 low-income families and other people in need will get hooked up with rent. It's a big deal because the average Houstonian puts nearly $1,400 in their apartment landlord's pocket each month.

“Families aren’t earning enough money to make the choices that they’d like to make, so this program ends up covering the gap for a lot of families," Thiele said.

And with a housing market this crazy, it’s a big gesture to let renters pick any property they want —  as long as they fit the Section 8 guidelines — instead of forcing people to live in some crappy, crumbling high rise.

Thiele said the application is only available online and will open Sept. 19 at 8 a.m. before closing Sept. 25 at 11:59 p.m.

“It’s not first-come, first-serve," he said. "Everybody goes into the lottery so it really doesn’t matter at all when you apply so we encourage you to apply at your own convenience.”

If your housing costs are moving toward expensive faster than a speeding bullet, the HHA might be the super neighborhood program that can help out.