1,800 affordable homes for rent through voucher program

Hundreds of people showed up Wednesday to get on a waiting list for a place they can afford to rent.

They flocked to Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church to sign up for the North Charleston Housing Authority's Housing Choice Voucher Program, also called Section 8 Housing.

It's the first time in four years that the Housing Authority is taking new applications, said Melba Hope, the authority's director of assisted housing.

The authority started taking applications Tuesday morning at the Rivers Avenue church and will continue through this morning.

More than 2,000 people had signed up by noon Wednesday. Hope expected another thousand by this afternoon.

"I just think it shows there is a tremendous need in North Charleston," she said.

About 1,800 houses throughout North Charleston are part of the program, Hope said. The supply is limited by available funding.

Unlike Section 8 housing complexes, the voucher program puts renters in houses throughout the community. Renters are expected to pay 30 percent of their adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. The renter pays the landlord what he or she can afford, and the authority pays the rest of the rent, Hope said.

Almost all of those streaming in and out of the church Wednesday were women, many with young children. About 95 percent were black.

Eighty-five percent to 90 percent of the vouchers go to single mothers with children, Hope said. But others were also applying Wednesday. Sherese Brown is a student at Charleston Southern University.

"I go to school full time, and I work two part-time jobs," she said. "I'm just hoping for someplace that I can afford to live."

Renters must make less than 80 percent of the median income to qualify. Preference goes to those making less than that, as well as those unable to work or in a job-training program, Hope said.

Applicants who are accepted usually won't get a place to live for six months to a year, Hope said.

"It's all waiting list," she said. "That's because there's so many people that qualify."