OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A staggering number of Oklahomans are waiting to get into public or Section 8 housing. Meanwhile, metro shelters said they can’t do much help because they’re already full.
“The need for affordable housing in Oklahoma City is immense,” said Mark Gillett, Executive Director of the Oklahoma City Housing Authority. “This is really as high as I’ve seen it.”
Gillett said 29,368 head-of-households and their families are currently waiting to get into various public and section 8 housing. Applicants often qualify for different types of assistance and put their names on multiple lists. Gillett said in total, the waitlists are 42,747 names long. They could be waiting a while.
“A couple of years is not an unreasonable period of time,” said Gillett. “As of today, there are nine total units available in 3000 public housing units. Those will probably be filled today or tomorrow.”
Gillett said the OCHA is one of the 50th largest public housing authority in the country, measured by the more than 7,000 public housing and section 8 units. The OCHA officials said they need four times that amount to serve those on the waitlist.
Officials with the OKC Homeless Alliance said going to a shelter in the metro isn’t always an option.
“We have about 1,450 people experiencing homelessness. So we’re short 600 shelter beds,” said Dan Straughan, the Executive Director of the OKC Homeless Alliance. “That means spending nights in their car or in a tent out in the woods somewhere or under a bridge or on a park bench.”
Gillett and Straughan said this is partly because Oklahoma City is growing. Market-rate units are being renovated to attract those who can afford an expensive rent.
“We are one of the rising rent cost areas in the nation,” said Gillett. “We’re not building affordable units.”
Both executive directors said Oklahoman’s paychecks are staying the same.
“Two-thirds of the people that are residing in City Rescue Mission today have jobs. They just don’t pay enough to keep them housed,” said Straughan.
“And then the pandemic dramatically affected the eviction moratorium everywhere in the United States, which makes everyone’s rent less affordable,” said Gillett.
OKC is in the process of beginning the MAPS 4 Homeless Program, to renovate public housing units in targeted areas. Gillett said it should help, however it’s going to be awhile before families can move in.
OCHA said what is really needed is more people signing up to be section 8 landlords, which will guarantee the landlords a source of income.