After a four-year desperate search for a ticket out of an abusive household, Ella received one in the form a housing rental-voucher. She shed tears of relief — until she tried to find a landlord who would agree to accept it.
Ella’s story reflects a broader challenge for a growing number of low-income tenants lucky enough to make it through long waitlists to obtain a federal Section 8 rental subsidy: Translating the subsidy into an actual home, because of landlords reluctant to participate in the program in a tight housing market.
The number of vouchers that expire before they can be used has shot up over the past two years.
Ella (whose name has been changed to protect her safety) applied to every Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program she could find in secret, planning to leave the home she shares with a verbally abusive partner in a suburb of New Haven. She submitted applications to every open waitlist in Connecticut, along with out-of-state waitlists as far away as Florida.
After about four years, Ella received a voucher from Hartford Housing Authority, which would allow her to look for apartments in New Haven and Fairfield, near her grandchildren.
“I sat in the room and just cried like a 2‑year-old, because I was so excited that I was finally gonna be able to breathe again,” she said. “Do what I want to do and not have to worry about stupid verbal things, just be able to just breathe.”
But months of apartment applications have led her nowhere. After two extended deadlines, Ella has until the end of April to find a place — or become one of the growing number of people to lose their vouchers amid rising rents and a shortage of affordable housing.
Families Stranded As Rental Vouchers Expire, Laura Glesby, New Haven Independent, April 14, 2022, available here