Over 10,000 expected to apply for Norwalk housing vouchers

NORWALK — For the first time in nearly a decade, the Norwalk Housing Authority will accept applications to the waitlist for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program later this month.

The authority is preparing to receive at least 10,000 applications from low-income families who qualify for federal housing subsidies, according to Adam Bovilsky, the director of the authority.

“Sadly, there is no lack of need for affordable housing in Norwalk,” Bovilsky said.

The waitlist will open on May 24 at 9 a.m. and will close four day later on May 27 at 5 p.m. Most applications must be submitted online, but the authority will accept applications over the phone from people without internet access or with disabilities.

After the application process closes, each family will be entered into a lottery for a spot on the housing voucher waitlist. Only about 1,000 families will be chosen, Bovilsky said.

A spot on the waitlist is not a guarantee a family will quickly find federally supported housing. The authority issues only two to three vouchers each month and some families spend several years on the list before one becomes available.

The housing authority serves approximately 2,000 families across the city. A little less than half live in properties directly owned and managed by the authority, while a majority live in private housing and receive vouchers that cover part of their rent.

The waitlist lottery was last opened locally in 2012. At the time, the authority was flooded with more than 10,000 applications from city residents. As expected this year, only about one in 10 won a spot on the waitlist.

Krasimira Carlucci, the director of housing operations for the authority, predicted the number of new applications this month will likely eclipse the figure from last decade. She suggested the pandemic has helped drive housing instability.

“In 2012 we were so surprised,” she said. “My guess is because of COVID and everything that’s been going on we’re going to get more than we did then.”

By law, the authority must provide three-fourths of its vouchers to applicants whose income does not exceed 30 percent of the area median income, which was $43,000 last year for a family of four in the Stamford-Norwalk region, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

On Thursday, the authority’s board of commissioners approved a change to the administrative plan aimed at reducing homelessness with housing vouchers. The change requires that one out of every four vouchers be offered to individuals who experience chronic homelessness or who face homelessness.

Bovilsky said the individuals will be referred to the housing authority by the Fairfield County Coordinated Access Network, a collaboration of homeless agencies in the county. The network will also provide the individuals with support services and case management to help them transition to permanent housing.

“The idea is that the best way to house the most difficult to house, the chronic homeless, is not putting them in sort of concentrated poverty areas where there’s more stress, like our housing developments sometimes can be,” Bovilsky said, “but rather put them on vouchers and allow them to be supported in less stressful environments.”