City News

Salem’s wait list for housing vouchers dwindles, but years-long pause on new applications still stands

More than three years after Salem stopped taking waiting list applications for public assistance to get into housing, residents will still have to wait up to four years for an affordable place to live. 

As of Oct. 28, 7,578 people from 3,207 households are on the Salem Housing Authority’s waiting list for a subsidized housing voucher, according to city data obtained by Salem Reporter through a public records request.

Both the number of people and households on the waiting list dropped by about 40% from January 2020, when there were more than 12,700 people from 5,300 households on the list.

That’s because the housing authority stopped accepting waiting list applications on June 30, 2018.

“It’s been closed since this time for the main Section 8 program,” housing administrator Nicole Utz wrote in an email. “Salem Housing Authority has been awarded several vouchers through various (federal Department of Housing and Urban Development) programs that continue to be filled to provide additional assistance.”

Utz said they don’t anticipate opening the voucher waiting list in the next two years, and it could be two to five years or longer.

“The legislative support from the 2021 Session will help us accelerate that timeline, moving more people off the wait list by providing them help finding a home and opening more private properties to vouchers,” Utz said.

She said the housing authority got $1 million from the legislative session that will help pay for housing outreach navigators who help people on the list find affordable apartments to rent.

Meanwhile, 157 people have gotten the vouchers and are still looking for affordable housing, city data showed.

There are 6,181 people, about 23% fewer than in January 2020, from 3,544 households currently receiving affordable or subsidized housing through Salem Housing Authority.

The housing authority estimates those at the end of the list will have to wait four-plus years before moving into a home.

“That’s always a difficult question to answer,” Utz said of how long people at the end of the list can expect to wait, “since it depends on funding from year to year and the amount of responses we receive from individuals who come to the top of the list.”

The housing authority offers affordable rentals in buildings it operates, where tenants pay either a fixed amount or percentage of their income as rent. Salem has 700 apartments with different rules for who can rent, with some requiring tenants to be seniors or have a disability and all requiring renters to be below a set income. Each program or building has its own waiting list, and people often apply for multiple buildings.

The housing authority also runs the Homeless Rental Assistance Program, which pays for up to a year of housing in private rentals and pairs people with caseworkers. The program cut the number of clients it serves by half this year because of difficulties finding landlords to participate.

Through a separate and much larger program, the housing authority provides housing vouchers in the federal Section 8 program. People apply for a voucher to rent an apartment of their choosing that meets federal requirements, and they will pay no more than 30% of their income toward rent.


Can’t afford Salem rent? The wait for a housing voucher is years long.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.