Section 8 housing wait list lottery to be redone due to error

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Six thousand and nine hundred applications were submitted to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority for Section 8 housing vouchers. Last week, the first lottery took place to decide who would be put on the wait list. Ultimately, only 750 families would be able to receive housing assistance.

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People reportedly started receiving e-mails saying they were selected, but shortly after, they were told that the whole process had to be done all over again due to an error.

“It gives you a lot of hope and then just to be told ‘well never mind, disregard it’ kind of is a really big letdown,” said Shye Obra, an applicant.

Obra was one of the applicants that got an e-mail saying she made it on the wait list.  

However, her hopes were dashed when she received an e-mail a few days later saying an error occurred and that the lottery selection “must be voided and a new lottery selection would need to be redrawn.”

“I’m just kind of feeling, I guess, maybe down or devastated…” said Obra. “I’m a single mom kind of making it paycheck to paycheck so that would really help me out a lot.”

Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, said this is the first time they used a lottery system. The vendor they were working with had a software glitch, which mistakenly caused some applicants names to be entered into the lottery more than once.

“When the internet is kind of slow on somebody and they press ‘enter’ and they don’t see results quickly, if they press ‘enter’ again, that actually put some (applications) in the system twice, and then they have more of a chance,” said Ouansafi.

He said they found one person who had their name appear 17 times.

“So, because of that some of the people who were not selected, (it) was not fair, and some of the people who were selected, (it) was also not fair, because they had more opportunities than what they should have.”

Hakim Ouansafi, Hawaii Public Housing Authority executive director

The glitch also meant that the software wasn’t weeding out fraudulent applications with the same names, social security numbers and addresses.

So far, 500 applications have been flagged as officials go over the submissions again. Once that’s done, they plan to conduct a new lottery this week.

“It’s more of a reset button. Every single name is being looked at checked making sure it’s accurate,” said Ouansafi.

He said they will likely finish application checks on Tuesday or Wednesday and then the new lottery will begin on or before Thursday. Applicants will receive an e-mail update this week.

The application window has closed and they are no longer taking any applicants.

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