AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a city grappling with a housing crisis, there’s a small window of opportunity to — maybe — get an affordable home.

The Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) is opening up a few affordable housing building waitlists this week, which will all close at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 17. Those include:

  • Pathways at Northloop (1 and 2 bedrooms)
  • Pathways at Santa Rita Courts (1-5 bedrooms)
  • Pathways at Thurmond Heights (1-4 bedrooms)

You can apply through the online portal here.

The waitlists just opened Wednesday and by Thursday afternoon, HACA housing operations director Michael Roth said they already had more than 700 applicants.

“Some of these properties have gone several years since the last waiting list opening, others have only gone a few months since the last one,” he said.

Here’s the thing: Not every person who applies will get on the waitlist. HACA uses a lottery system to select who does.

“We do have a lot of families who apply and putting a huge number of families on a waiting list, they would end up having years and years and years waiting before an apartment become available. It’s just not something that we want to be doing as a housing authority,” Roth explained.

He said each waitlist is capped depending on the size of the property and how many units HACA thinks will become available.

“It’s just a reflection of we want to be able to get through this waiting list in a timely manner and not having people sitting there waiting and hoping for something that’s far from the future,” Roth explained. “And hopefully in the future, there’s less of a need for that but that’s the reality of affordability in our city right now.”

He said if you do get on the waiting list, it’ll likely be at least a year until you get into a home.

“If they end up near the top of the list the wait could be shorter, but typically it can be 12 to 36 months,” Roth said.

This comes about a week after HACA opened up another waiting list for Pathways at Chalmers Court West, located on East 3rd Street.

That building is still being built, so the application will be open for longer and will include 140 income-restricted rentals with one-to-four-bedroom options, with preference for neighbors who used to live there and want to come back.

You can apply for those units through this online portal.

Allie Roberts leads Sunrise Navigation Center’s housing hotline and said lots of agencies — not just HACA — have long waitlists.

It’s why they try to get folks who call in through a diversion program.

“Which is a program that provides one time financial assistance to people to exit them from homelessness, instead of waiting a long time for a housing program to become available,” Roberts explained.

That includes things like paying for upfront moving costs like deposits or moving trucks.

“A common diversion that we do is travel expenses for someone to reunite with family, sometimes family as far away, and so will help with a bus ticket or plane ticket,” she said.

Most people who call don’t need diversion, though, and Roberts said they encourage them to apply for every type of housing waitlist they can find.

She said it’s hard to keep up since launching the pilot hotline in June. They’ve gotten more than 10,000 calls, with 2,200 calls last month alone.

“And that’s only in six months. So, that’s just telling me that there’s… a lot of people who are struggling right now because there’s not there’s not enough affordable housing,” Roberts said.

People experiencing homelessness can access Sunrise Hotline services by calling 512-522-1097. Employees will be available to answer and help from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.

Amanda Tiffin said she’s one of those waiting– she doesn’t know where she is on her list.

“Section eight for Austin Travis County, I think I’m like number 2000-something, something,” she said.

Tiffin has been on and off the streets for years.

“Currently, I am sitting on my house,” she said, showing KXAN her sleeping bag and other personal items.

Tiffin keeps her few items close as she waits for her turn.

“I walk around I try to avoid becoming a worse person than I encounter,” she said.