An Uncommon Success for Housing Vouchers in Wichita

While less than a fifth of housing vouchers are utilized nationwide, Wichita has distributed around 70 percent of the vouchers allocated to the city.

2 minute read

April 6, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

In many U.S. cities, federal emergency housing vouchers are "vastly underutilized," with only 15 to 20 percent of vouchers used to lease apartments nationwide. "Challenges, including a tight housing market and skyrocketing rents, have made it difficult for those who receive vouchers to find housing," writes Celia Hack. The city of Wichita, Kansas, meanwhile, has distributed around 70 percent of its 142 vouchers. 

Local officials attribute their success to several factors, including the city's existing administrative infrastructure, which had already developed a system of coordination between the Wichita housing authority and housing providers. "When the Wichita Housing Authority received the emergency vouchers in 2021, nonprofits already had infrastructure in place to communicate with the city about who was homeless and in need." 

"The emergency housing voucher comes with a deadline — if you don’t find housing within 120 days of receiving it, you lose it. Agencies that worked with clients who received the vouchers said it was a challenge to find landlords who would accept them." To combat this issue, the city also created "an incentive program that provides landlords with support when leasing to tenants who experienced homelessness" to reduce reluctance on the part of private landlords to rent to voucher recipients.

"This success may have been helped by Wichita’s housing market," notes Hack. "Average rent in Wichita is less than half the national average as of October 2021. And according to iProperty Management, Wichita’s rental vacancy rate is 9.7% — about 62% higher than the national vacancy rate."

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