It may be a few more weeks before people who applied for the city's Section 8 Voucher program learn whether they made the waiting list.
Affordable housing advocates gathered at City Hall Wednesday afternoon and demanded answers from HANO, the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Specifically, they had concerns about how the voucher program is being managed.
With signs that read "housing not homeless" in hand, New Orleans residents and affordable housing advocates voiced concerns to HANO at a city council public housing committee meeting.
"We just celebrated MLK's birthday and this has violated everything this man has stood for. Where is freedom? Where is justice?," asked New Orleans resident Sharon Jasper.
Ayesha Lewis said, "my rent is so expensive. I have to pay $800 (a month) and go without lights, gas, water." Lewis said she qualifies for the rent subsidy, however she's been on a waiting list since before Hurricane Katrina.
HANO said by the September deadline last year, it had received about 37,000 applicants for Section 8 vouchers, but many of those applications were duplicates. HANO said the latest waiting list for vouchers is down to about 28,000 people.
"Obviously that is a lot more applications than the housing authority had anticipated," said Keith Pettigrew, HANO Deputy General Manager of Operations.
HANO said currently a private company is checking applications to make sure people are eligible.
"We are very close to getting the final scrub of the 28,865 applications that we have," said Pettigrew.
Council member Stacy Head asked, "when do you expect to get that?" Pettigrew said, "I would have to guess hopefully within the next two to three weeks."
That's when the waiting list will be finalized. HANO General Counsel Wayne Woods said, "they will receive notification in the mail that they're on the list."
Head said she'd like to see HANO have an alternative to notifying applicants whether they made the waiting list. She said, "people should be able to call a number or do something that they can say this is my name social and need to find out if i'm on the list."
HANO managers said even then, they won't be able to fulfill the need for vouchers alone. They said the reality is that New Orleans is in dire need of affordable housing.
The federal government allocates federal funding to HANO each year for Section 8 vouchers. HANO said it will not know the number of vouchers it'll receive until next month.