How housing choice aid program works

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The Chicago Housing Authority provided housing aid for 140,192 people last year.

Most of them — 107,411 — are in households that received housing choice vouchers, commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, to rent homes from private landlords.

Voucher-holders lived in a total of 44,773 apartments, condominiums and single-family homes, according to the CHA, which administers the program in Chicago for the federal government.

Under the program — which is used across the country — landlords receive subsidies from the housing authority, based on the income of the voucher-holding tenant. Most tenants have to pay some of the rent, though some pay nothing.

In Chicago, landlords are barred by law from rejecting anyone for using a voucher as long as the rent is covered.

The number of housing vouchers has grown substantially since 2000. That was the year Chicago set out on a plan to tear down most of the city’s high-rise public housing projects, including Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes. At that time, the CHA housed 54,260 people in its own buildings, while 76,666 lived in private residences through the voucher program.

In addition to the 107,411 people living with vouchers last year, 32,781 people were in CHA buildings and mixed-income developments, about 30 percent of them in developments for seniors.

The federal government sets qualifications for any CHA housing assistance based on family size and household income. A family of four has to make less than $60,800 a year to qualify. For a single person, the income limit is $42,600.

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