Shortage of affordable housing leaves Savannah families waiting

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Thousands of Savannah families are waiting for an affordable place to live. Many of them have been waiting years to get into public housing or the Section 8 voucher program.

The sad reality is that Congress decides how much the Housing Authority gets through HUD when they set their budget. Unfortunately for those in Savannah, most of that money is spent renovating decades-old units instead of building new ones.

The problem affects those looking for Section 8 housing and public housing.

When the demolition started at the Hitch Village in 2010, few could have imagined it would take seven years to see some new construction. That slow construction is just one way thousands of families looking for affordable housing in Savannah are slowed down.

"It's heartbreaking because you know there are families who are eligible but we have a finite number of public housing and we have a finite number of vouchers," said Housing Authority Director Earline Davis.

At the end of 2016, 3,000 families lived in Section 8 housing. The more surprising number is the families who didn't. Almost 10,000 alone are waiting for on the Section 8 waitlist. It's a list so long, the application option closed in 2013.

"In some neighborhoods, it's worse than ours. It depends on the state and whether it's a rural or urban community," said Davis.

Kay Viar is just one person who's been waiting on that Section 8 list.

"All I want now is a place to live where I'm not having to rely on a shelter. These shelters aren't safe," said Viar.

Another option is public housing. The numbers are just as bad for those families. The wait lists for them depend on the number of bedrooms a family wants.

"Most of the people that we house are children, elderly and disabled," said Davis.

People with Section 8 vouchers only need to find a landlord willing to rent to them. For public housing, the budget Congress approves determines what HUD can spend on adding more options. The housing authority can't just build more villages. So what can be done?

"They can call their elected officials and ask them to allocate more money for assisted living," said Davis.

It's an action that may be the only solution when it comes to adding more affordable housing. The mayor told us adding more affordable housing is his number one priority.

However, the city is limited in what it can do. When we reached out to his office, they told us they wanted to do that by eliminating the blight and redeveloping those properties throughout Savannah.

As part of the "Blight to Bright" campaign, the City of Savannah has compiled the 100 Worst Properties list.

You can click on each property and look up exactly where it is, see a photo and the property's "status."

According to the city, staff is working its way through the list to bring each property into compliance. Residents wanting to report blight are asked to call 311.

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