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The Washington Post: D.C. residents face long housing aid delays as 3,100 vouchers sit unused

October 18, 2023

Andrea Dicks stands in the kitchen of her apartment.

Meagan Flynn and Marissa J. Lang of the Washington Post report on challenges faced by individuals eligible for housing vouchers, who often must wait months for approvals due to bureaucratic obstacles and delays as thousands of funded vouchers sit unused.

As soon as Andrea Dicks got approved to move into a new apartment in June, she started packing. She got rid of old furniture and stacked plastic bins full of toys and clothes against the wall — ready to leave a unit that she said was crawling with roaches and mice. But two months later, the boxes were still sitting there. Dicks, a 31-year old native Washingtonian who holds a housing voucher, couldn’t go anywhere until the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) processed her paperwork and the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) approved the new unit. In August, the property manager apologized to Dicks but said it couldn’t keep waiting on the city: The apartment she wanted to move into was going back on the market.

Emily Ford, an attorney with the Children’s Law Center who had been helping Dicks compel repairs to her mold-ridden apartment in housing court, called Dicks’s advocacy, all the way up to a top DHS official, “amazing” — but said it made her nervous for the rest of the voucher program’s participants: Is this what it took to be heard?

“Not everyone is able to do that,” she said. “I worry about people who haven’t been connected or don’t have those same advocacy skills.”

Photo credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post