Woman Approved for Affordable Housing 29 Years After Applying

A Chicago alderwoman was floored to receive a letter informing her that she rose to the top of a waitlist for affordable housing last month—nearly three decades after she applied.

"I first applied for an affordable housing voucher in 1993," Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor said on Twitter, showing a photo of the letter from the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) dated May 20.

"I finally got a call back in 2004 to tell me my son who just graduated high school couldn't be on my lease. Today in 2022 I finally got a letter telling me I made it to the top of the waiting list. I have no words."

The letter said that Taylor had until June 6 to complete her Application for Eligibility after being selected from the waitlist.

A 2021 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that most families wait years to get off waitlists for affordable housing vouchers. Only two of the 50 largest housing authorities in the United States have average wait times of under a year, while some have average wait times of up to eight years. Across the country, families who receive vouchers spend an average of nearly two and a half years waiting.

The average wait time for housing vouchers in Chicago was 19 months, CBPP reported. However, since millions of families never get to the top of a waiting list, the average wait time for people who end up receiving vouchers does not reflect the wait for anyone who puts their name on a list.

Taylor told WBBM Newsradio that when she applied for affordable housing in 1993, she was a 19-year-old mother of three. She had two more children while she continued to wait, raising all five in a one-bedroom apartment.

Chicago Housing Authority
A Chicago alderwoman was floored to receive a letter informing her that she rose to the top of a waitlist for affordable housing last month—nearly three decades after she applied. Here, an East Chicago Housing Authority building in East Chicago, Indiana, in 2017. Scott Olson / Staff/Getty Images North America

In a follow-up tweet, Taylor said her 29-year wait was symptomatic of a broken housing system.

"I have no words for how this system continues to fail our communities and those in need of stable, AFFORDABLE housing," she wrote. "In those 29 years the housing crisis in Chicago has only gotten worse."

A CHA spokesperson told Newsweek in a statement, "CHA cannot comment on any applicant's status for privacy reasons, but we fully agree that more resources are needed from the federal government to address the need for affordable housing in Chicago, as there has not been a significant increase in the number of vouchers available in years."

CHA added that the last time the Housing Choice Voucher waitlist opened was in 2014 when more than 75,000 names were put on the list. Approximately 32,000 names remain today.

Last year, President Joe Biden proposed affordable housing incentives as part of his Build Back Better plan, which also included universal pre-kindergarten, clean energy incentives and expanded health care benefits. The bill failed after Senator Joe Manchin publicly pulled his support.

Newsweek reached out to Alderman Taylor for comment.