Omaha Housing Authority explains backlog crisis

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Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 11:13 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Some Omahans are experiencing a two-year wait for housing vouchers.

The Omaha Housing Authority is still working through the 2019 lottery, 2021 adds thousands more in waiting.

Loreli Walker is calling this shelter home as she waits for a housing voucher.

“I haven’t anything really from OHA just that I’ve been selected through the lottery and just to wait,” said Walker.

Her name was one of 3,000 drawn this summer of section 8 housing voucher. The federally funded program gives low-income families a chance to choose where they live, paying a portion of the rent.

“I would be stable, you know. I wouldn’t be paying as much rent, because the cost of living is pretty high,” said Walker.

That stability gets her one step closer to her children who are in foster care.

“It would just give me back to being able to be with my kids,” said Walker.

But she’s in for a wait.

The Omaha Housing Authority is still months away from working through the list from two years ago, then they’ll move on this year’s list.

“Some individuals could wait up to two years and some individuals depending on where they are on the waitlist could receive offers as soon as the beginning of next year,” said Joanie Poore, Executive Director of Omaha Housing Authority.

“Hmm, it’s like, um, I mean I’m going to wait but what am I going to do? That’s a long wait,” said Walker.

The shelter’s director says the challenges don’t end once the voucher is in the hand, finding a landlord to accept it presents another hurdle.

“It’s slim pickings. They can’t use it and they have to get extensions because they only have so much time to search and when the search is very small there’s more frustration,” said Timeaki Allen, Shelter Director of Stephen Center.

The housing authority has a limited number of vouchers and people are holding on to them, often struggling to find affordable housing.

“Being able to afford rent or a homeowner payment if you get a family of four or six individuals that can take a while to be at an earning capacity to do that,” said Poore.

Meaning the wait continues for people like Loreli Walker.

It’s, like really, really stressful, but you know I take it one day at a time,” said Walker.

Her children are her reason for getting back on her feet.

“I have to accomplish it and do it somehow and my kids are the bigger picture so that’s what it is,” said Walker.

The Omaha Housing Authority says it’s in need of more landlords to accept housing vouchers. The executive director is encouraging anyone who is interested to reach out to them for more information.

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