Some people hit a dead end Monday morning when they went on line to apply for a housing voucher through Tacoma Housing Authority. Though at least 1,400 people got through to the application at www.tacomahousing.org, many others got a "not found" message when they clicked on the application button. The problem, said Josh Crites of the housing authority's IT department, lies with computers' memories and a switch in systems. The housing authority went to a new system recently, and some computers' homing instincts insist on returning to the old one. When the problem came to light Monday morning, the housing authority deployed four employees to a phone bank. People who called to say they could not apply on line filed the application over the phone. At the same time, technicians set to work to correct the problem. They expected to have it fixed in the afternoon. Meanwhile, they released an alternate web address that works, regardless of a computer's memory. That address is www.tacomahousing.net. Crites added that the vouchers are awarded in a lottery, not by the order in which they were received.
Tacoma Housing Authority will accept rental assistance applications for the first time since 2008. Back then, 9,000 people stood in lines to fill out the forms that would give them a chance at a Section 8 voucher.
The rules have changed. There will be no lines, and the voucher coverage is aimed at readying those who can work to get the jobs that can make them independent.
THA will offer employment and job search services to all participants who are able to work. It also will set up a five-year limit on assistance for people who can work.
People will file their applications online only, at the housing authority’s website, http://www.tacomahousing.org, from 7 a.m. on, June 3, to 5 p.m. on, June 10.
“That will save us a lot of time and work, be more accessible and fairer to applicants and avoid the very long lines we had to ask people to stand in,” said THA Executive Director Michael Mirra.
He had one warning: When the Seattle Housing Authority ran applications this way, it worked well, with an exception.
“Some dishonest people set up phony websites that sounded similar to the Seattle Housing Authority. The phony websites invited people to apply by paying money,” he said. “When that happened, the people wasted money to apply and then found out that their ‘application’ did not count.”
After that, THA went proactive and bought up as many domain names as they could that might be confused with the agency’s.
There are changes, too in the old Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program.
It has a new name: Housing Opportunity Program, or HOP.
It will help low-income households pay the rent on private-sector homes or apartments. Under HOP, that sum will remain the same, and will not change with the participants’ income.
THA will offer employment and job search services to all participants who are able to work. It also will set a five-year limit on assistance for people who can work.
That limit will not apply to seniors or to people who cannot work because of a disability.
“We think this new program, will help us better serve three important goals,” Mirra said. “Encourage people who can work to increase their earned income; allow us to serve more people; save on the administrative costs of running the program.”