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Thousands line up for Section 8 housing vouchers in Passaic, N.J.

PASSAIC, N.J. — The line for Section 8 vouchers wrapped around the block outside of Passaic's Housing Authority on Monday, with some waiting overnight for the shot at affordable housing.

About 8,000 residents took home Section 8 applications last week that were due back Monday.

"I'm ready to be here at least 2 hours," said Alexander Garcia, a former New York City doorman. “I’m semi-retired now, so I could use a rental facility that’s affordable.”

Passaic's Housing Authority Public Safety Director Jeffrey Gorley said the agency does this once every several years, and it's a massive operation that entails coordination with the police department. He said demand is up this year.

“The need for public housing is extremely high at this time. Not just here but throughout the country, I would suppose," Gorley said.

For the 8,000 expected applicants, about 1,500 rolling vouchers are available.

"They’re put on a list, if they qualify, and they may have to wait 1 year, 2 years or 3 years," Gorley said.

Section 8 allows residents to move into market-rate apartments at a fraction of the rent. The government foots most or all of the bill, depending on the applicant's income level and other factors.

“I think jobs pay pretty well, but the housing is more of a problem," said Helines Alvarado, a single mom who works full-time but still needs housing help.

The deadline for Passaic's Section 8 vouchers was set for 4 p.m. on Monday. It will be several weeks before applicants find out if they are approved to receive a voucher. Then they must wait for their name to be called when there is a vacancy within a Section 8 apartment.