PORTLAND — Housing authorities in Portland, Westbrook and South Portland have created a unified waiting list for federally subsidized Section 8 housing, a new database they say will simplify the application process for individuals and families desperate to find an affordable place to live.

The Greater Portland Housing Services Corp. will begin accepting applications at 9 a.m. Wednesday at offices in the three cities.

Directors at each of the agencies say they would not be surprised if they encounter waiting lines when they open their doors Wednesday morning.

“There is a tremendous need for affordable housing. It’s a crisis not just in Maine, but across the nation,” said Mark Adelson, executive director of the Portland Housing Authority.

The Portland Housing Authority currently has more than 600 households on its waiting list. Those families do not have to reapply and will be automatically placed on the unified list.

Adelson said the benefit of creating a single waiting list means applicants will not have to travel to each city to apply for subsidized housing. They will be automatically placed on a waiting list for housing in all three communities.

Eventually, a person will be able to apply for housing online.

The new waiting list will also help the agencies to determine how great the need for affordable housing is.

Adelson and other directors suspect that their current waiting lists contain the names of families who have applied in all of the towns.

To qualify for Section 8 vouchers, a family must be at 50 percent of the area’s median income.

The waiting list at the South Portland Housing Authority is about 385 households, according to Executive Director Mike Hulsey. South Portland has not accepted any new applications since April 2010.

“There’s a good chance there could be lines of people waiting (on Wednesday),” Hulsey said.

Chris LaRoche, executive director of the Westbrook Housing Authority, said this is the first time communities in Maine have joined together to create a central waiting list.

And while the list doesn’t mean people will get into housing any faster than they can now — there is no Section 8 housing available — LaRoche and his colleagues hope it will prove to be efficient and help convince other housing authorities to do the same.

“The current system is very cumbersome. This will make people’s lives easier. I feel bad because in the past they’ve had to go to each authority to apply. They end up resubmitting applications multiple times,” LaRoche said.

South Portland and Westbrook will continue to give preference to local residents for available housing. Portland does not give local preference.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com