In Dubuque, only 4 percent of people who applied for housing assistance will receive it

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- More than 1,000 people applied for housing assistance in Dubuque, but only 50 people will end up getting help.

(Charlie Grant/KCRG)

The city opened its Housing Choice Voucher, also known as Section 8, waiting list on Tuesday for the first time in more than a year. The last time it was opened was in February 2018. Then, the city received 1,500 applications and put 1,000 people on the waiting list.

On Tuesday, the city received 1,190 applications, according to housing and community development director Alexis Steger, and the city has anywhere from 800 to 900 vouchers to hand out. She said the high number of people applying highlights the need for affordable housing.

"We’re only going to draw 50 and so you’re leaving a huge amount of people in the community that are housing cost-burdened, and a lot of them are living in shelters or living on couches of other people’s homes.”

Bridgette Kuhlman is one of the many who applied. She moved to Dubuque nine years ago and ended up living in a hotel. She applied for a Housing Choice Voucher but got nowhere.

"It was not a good experience," Kuhlman said. "And then I was hearing of other people getting theirs and everything else and was happy for them, but then at the same time I was wondering when I was going to get my phone call to have my little break and get out of the hotel, and it never came.”

When Kuhlman found out the list was opening once again, she initially laughed, thinking it would be a lost cause to apply. Eventually, she reconsidered.

"I was like might as well give it a shot, can’t hurt. So hopefully," Kuhlman said.

Her chances aren't great since the city is only able to take four percent of applicants. Steger says it's clear Dubuque needs more affordable housing.

"It’s really showing that the cost of the housing is not matching the needs of our citizens," Steger said.

In the meantime, Kuhlman plans to keep working full-time at McDonald's while trying to make ends meet. About one year ago she experienced the cliff effect, making too much money to receive state aid.

"You have this point in your life where you’re doing really, really good and you have the assistance that you need, and then you make too much and then it’s time for your year review and then they pull it all," Kuhlman said. “It all comes crashing down. And then one month you have food for your kids and you have gas in your tank and where you have that extra money. And then the next week, you have no gas, no food, no nothing.”

She hopes for a break soon. She said, "it’d be nice.”

The Housing Choice Voucher waiting list will open again next month. Steger said the city is going to open it on the second Tuesday of each month. However, there will only be a select number of spots available.