Cook County tosses ‘lifeline’ to needy residents, opening housing voucher waiting list for first time since 2001

The program, which used to be called Section 8, provides subsidies to households who meet a certain income threshold to help them pay rent. In the Chicago metro area, the income eligibility threshold ranges from $31,850 for a single individual to $60,100 for a household of eight.

SHARE Cook County tosses ‘lifeline’ to needy residents, opening housing voucher waiting list for first time since 2001
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Richard Monocchio, the executive director of the Housing Authority of Cook County, speaks at a press conference announcing the opening of the housing authority’s waitlist Monday, Oct. 19.

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As many as 10,000 Cook County residents who meet the income requirements can join the line for help paying their rent, officials said Monday, as they opened up the housing choice voucher program waiting list for the first time in nearly 20 years.

As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, 6,000 people had already submitted applications, although they have until Nov. 2 to apply for a voucher, said Richard Monocchio, the head of the Housing Authority of Cook County.

“This program is a lifeline for so many people, especially today,” Monocchio said at a news conference. “We look forward to housing as many people as we can and continuing to be a lifeline for Cook County families during these very difficult times.”

The waiting list will have 10,000 spots for new applicants — 6,000 people were already on the list before the applications opened Monday. Once the county gets through those applicants it can begin processing new applications, Monocchio said. The last time the list was open was in 2001.

The county’s housing authority already provides assistance to 15,000 voucher holders in the county. The program, which used to be called Section 8, provides subsidies to households who meet a certain income threshold to help them pay rent.

In the Chicago metro area, the income eligibility threshold ranges from $31,850 for a single individual to $60,100 for a household of eight, officials said in a statement.

Families who get on the waiting list will be able to take their voucher anywhere in the country after spending a year in the housing authority’s jurisdiction, which includes all of suburban Cook County, except for Maywood, Oak Park and Cicero, Monocchio said.

In August, county officials announced a program that would allow suburban county residents who were behind on rent to apply for financial relief of up to three months of rent — or up to $4,500.

Monocchio said the pandemic wasn’t the reason why the waiting list was being opened, though the decision comes at a “fortuitous time” because it “gives people some hope now at a time where, unfortunately, hope is in short supply for a lot of low-income people.”

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