DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — The Decatur Housing Authority canceled its first Section 8 waiting list this year to “discuss any issues that might be a concern.”

Executive Director Terri Goodman told the Target 3 investigative team of the move to cancel Tuesday’s opening less than a day after reporters pressed the agency about its apparently obstacle-laden application process.

A notice posted to Facebook last week said applicants in need of the low-income housing vouchers would have to pick up the application in person at the Housing Authority, and that opportunity was available for one business day. Then, the completed applications would have to be mailed back in, and only those received by the next day would be entered into the lottery.

Goodman said this process is “common practice,” both for the Decatur agency and for “many housing authorities,” adding “HUD totally supports it.”

Non-profit attorneys at Land of Lincoln Legal Aid said the one-day turnaround is “essentially impossible.”

Screenshot of post’s edit history on the Decatur Housing Authority Facebook page.

“Asking them to take a workday, a May 3rd Tuesday out of their life, find the transportation to get to the Housing Authority…and hope whenever they stick something in the mail that day, it’s going to get delivered the next day. That’s asking a lot for the people who really need access to these housing vouchers,” said Susan Zielke, managing attorney for the Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Eastern Regional Office in Champaign.

The Housing Authority has special arrangements set up with the Memorial Station Post Office, according to a notice Goodman said is attached to applications.

The notice instructs applicants not to use any other post office and to “Advise the postal clerk that mail is to be returned to DHA by May 4, 2022 for the HCV/Section 8 Lottery.”

Zielke said this is the first time the practice was brought to Land of Lincoln Legal Aid’s attention. She described the expectations laid out in the process as “fantastical.”

When the waiting list was last opened, which was about six months ago, according to Goodman, she said: “We had 15 that didn’t make the next day return.”

“We were taking 300 applications and we received back around 400. Without looking some of the 100 probably were from outside Macon County,” she added.

The Housing Authority director wouldn’t answer questions about why the application period is limited to a day, through the mail, in a world of online submissions, just claiming “We have done this process this way for over 14 years and NEVER had any kind of issues.”

Nevertheless, Goodman said, “We will be meeting with our board and other agency to discuss any issues that might be a concern,” and the waiting list opening will be rescheduled “at a later date.”

A Land of Lincoln caseworker said most of their clients “have limited resources and Section 8 vouchers are incredibly valuable. Some people wait years to even apply for the waitlist.”