Numerous housing authorities maintain websites to provide information for low-income renters at all times of the day. Affordable Housing Online highlights offices that have published a wealth of meaningful content online. We have reviewed the website for the King County Housing Authority (KCHA), which provides affordable housing assistance in King County, Washington, with the exception of Renton and Seattle. This website has helped us publish information on our own KCHA page that gives waiting list information and steps on how to apply.
1. Waiting List Status
Finding out if a waiting list is open or closed is very easy to find on the KCHA website. The left of the home page clearly states the waiting list status for the Section 8 program and the KCHA’s other subsidized housing programs. If the waiting list is open, all users have to do is click the “Apply” link placed below the waiting list status to read about the application process.
Also, a link has been provided under both the “Section 8 Vouchers” and “Subsidized Housing” section to allow applicants to estimate how long it will take to receive assistance. The Section 8 page allows applicants to input their confirmation number, or birthday and Social Security Number to check their number. Below these inputs, the KCHA has placed a list estimating when specific numbers will be assistance, which is updated monthly. An explanation of how to update application information is given, as well. The Subsidized Housing page is not as precise as the Section 8 page, but still contains valuable information. Applicants can select the property or region they applied to, along with the bedroom size. Information is then given, identifying how many households are still on the waiting list, and when the household at the top of the waiting list submitted their application. These are important features, not only because the waiting list status is easily accessible on the home page, but also because not all housing authorities allow applicants to check their specific position on the waiting list.
2. Area of Coverage
In the center of the KCHA’s home page, the text immediately identifies that the King County Housing Authority provides assistance for persons in King County, WA, and even further explains that the office does not serve Renton or Seattle, WA. This is one of the most important pieces of information to know when beginning your affordable housing search, and the housing authority makes this information easily obtainable.
It is easy to learn about all affordable housing programs provided by the KCHA. Several links are located below the title “Find A Home” on the home page, which contain information about each program.
There are links to separate pages of information for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8 Vouchers), other subsidized housing such as Public Housing (Subsidized Housing), and additional subsidized housing programs that may be managed by the KCHA or a private company (Other Rental Housing). Even though the KCHA does not directly provide housing assistance for homeless persons, the office has partnered with related local organizations to assist the residents of King County. Because of this partnership, a link is also provided for homeless persons looking for assistance (Homeless Housing).
Each of these pages contain information about the respective affordable housing program, and if there is an opening, steps on how to apply.
The KCHA has one of the most detailed listings of properties that are either owned or managed by the office, located on the “Property Map” page. While there is a simple list users can view that states the property name, what kind of housing assistance is offered, and its location, an extensive map has also been provided. This map marks each property’s location with a specific symbol identifying which housing program is attached to that property. There is also a special note detailing which properties may accept Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
Both the list and map of properties provide links for specific information about each individual property. A wealth of information is given, including a photograph, number of units, accessibility, and amenities.
5. Contact Information
Finding out how to contact the KCHA office is simple, as the address, telephone number, and fax number for both the main office and Section 8 office are placed on the bottom right corner of the home page. A “Contact Us” link is also placed on the top of the home page, which contains the same information as what is on the bottom of the page. Going above and beyond to serve interested persons, there is also a link titled “Directions,” which brings users to a Google Maps page that makes it easy to get directions to the office.
6. Agency Plans
It is important to be able to easily access a housing authority’s Annual Plan to be aware of the office’s goals and current policies. Under “News & Publications,” in a link titled “MTW Plans & Reports,” the KCHA has made each Annual Plan available dating back to 2010, and also publishes a yearly review, called an Annual Report, which is not available on many housing authority websites. Each document can be easily downloaded and viewed with the Adobe Acrobat Reader, and a link to download the program is also available on this page.
Other Important Features
A plethora of links for other relevant information are placed on the home page, with a header on the top of the page that lists the categories “Find A Home,” “Residents,” “Landlords,” “Employment,” and “Business.” By hovering over each header category, a long list of more specific links can be found. These links have also been placed on the footer of the website, which additionally includes the categories “Development, “News & Publications,” “About Us,” and “Contact Us;” which all also have more specific links under them.
2. Section 8 HCV Subsidy Calculator
This feature is as rare as it is helpful, as it allows persons interested in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program to estimate what their monthly rent would be. Located on the “Section 8 Vouchers” page, titled “Subsidy Calculator,” a number of factors are involved, including monthly income, monthly rent, and bedroom size; and although it is only an estimate, this is an extremely helpful tool to use when searching for rental housing assistance. We have not yet come across another housing authority that provides a subsidy calculator like this online.
3. Housing Authority News
While many housing authorities have a “News” section on their website, it usually simply contains public notices about a waiting list opening, announcements about new properties, and/or reminders about public meetings. On the “News & Publications” page, the KCHA links to articles written by outside news sources that have published pieces about current events related to the housing authority. Articles are posted on a frequent basis, with an attribution to the news source.
4. Board of Commissioners & Meetings
Board meetings are public meetings in which the Board of Commissioners discuss and resolve issues about the housing authority. Tenants under programs managed by the KCHA may attend these meetings to be aware of issues and events surrounding the housing authority, and express their opinion on issues to the board. The “About Us” page provides information about the board in a link titled “Board Info & Meetings.” A statement of the session’s regular meet date and time is displayed on this page, with a helpful notice of when the next meeting will take place. For persons who were not able to attend a meeting, the agenda, packet materials, minutes and resolutions for all sessions back to 2011 have been provided on this page. A list of board members is usually available on most housing authority websites, but there aren’t many that are as extensive as this one. A brief history of each board member is provided on this page, also with the option to send an online message to each person.