Dubuque to open Housing Choice Voucher Program waiting list

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Low-income renters in Dubuque will soon have an opportunity to receive government help in paying their rent.

City of Dubuque's Housing and Community Development Department on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

The city is opening its waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance program on Wednesday, February 14. That list has been closed for three years.

The program provides rent money to people who meet income requirements.

Assisted Housing Supervisor Teresa Bassler says the program currently assists 800 people, and as people get out of the program, they take in new renters.

This is why they're opening up the wait list once again.

As Bassler works in her office on Tuesday, she says it's the calm before the storm.

"We really don't know what to expect, but we're going to expect the worse I guess and see how many we get," she said.

She anticipates receiving thousands of applications starting Wednesday through Tuesday, February 20.

From there, her department will randomly put 1,000 households on the waiting list.

Once a person is on the list, they can wait longer than a year to get a voucher.

"Average wait day right now with the current waiting list we're working from is 1,031 days," Bassler said.

The wait is so long because of the number of people on the list, as well as the steps it takes to get a voucher.

Bassler said, "we have to contact them, we have to verify their information, we have to have them come in so we can explain the program to them and then they get offered their voucher and they can go out and look for that."

Sometimes finding a place can be challenging when landlords choose not to accept someone with a voucher.

"They can choose the tenants that they want to select, and if they want to accept the program they can, and if they don't they don't have to," said Bassler.

Naomi Clark, chair of the Renters' Union in Dubuque, says it's troubling that landlords are able to deny tenants who receive a voucher.

"We know that voucher holders are just as good renters as any other renters. They're just as reliable, they're just as responsible," Clark said.

The Renters' Union is a new group in Dubuque that seeks to help area renters advocate for their rights.

Jerry Maro, President of the Dubuque Area Landlords Association, says their group lets landlords make their own decision in participating in the voucher program.

Coralita Shumaker is a renter who has received assistance through the voucher program. She says she experienced landlords turning her away because she received a voucher, but she also met landlords who welcomed her.

She believes landlords have improved how they treat housing tenants, but says there is still room for improvement.

Bassler and Clark also believe there aren't enough affordable rentals to go around.

"Basically we need more money from the federal government to help all those people we really could be serving," Bassler said.

For more information on this program, visit

the city's website.