BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Hundreds of applicants for a new public housing program in Baton Rouge had trouble accessing the programs website on the first of a two-day application period.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority said the heavy volume of users overloaded the website's servers. The site people are trying to log-in to is onlineapplication.ebrpha.org/pbv.
The application window for the Project Based Voucher (PBV) wait list opened at 8:00 AM Thursday and closes at 7:59 AM Saturday. The program pays for low-income individuals to live in one of two public housing projects – Willow Creek and Autumn Place.
Those on the wait list for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Section 8 program were notified earlier this month that they are also now eligible for PBV. The letter said to apply online only during the designated window.
"We called and called and couldn't get nothing, we went online and couldn't get anything so we came to the office," Mary Hayes said standing outside the Housing Authority Thursday morning. She said she was directed to a sign on the door:
Attention!! Due to extremely high call volume, we are currently experiencing technical problems with the PBV application website. If you have been unable to access the website, please be patient and try again later. Thank you.
Other potential applicants shared similar stories of frustration. Belinda Washington said she tried to help her friend apply.
"She worked all night, but she stayed up because she knew she had to be online at 8 o'clock because that's what she was told, so we began trying to get into the website at 8 this morning. No response, and it kept saying web page not available, web page not available," she said.
WAFB tried numerous times to access the application website Thursday and did not get through until around 5 PM. Later in the evening the website worked the majority of the time and displayed this message:
IMPORTANT! DUE TO THE OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF APPLICANTS, YOU MAY HAVE TO TRY REPEATEDLY TO GET AN APPLICATION PROCESSED.
IMPORTANT! MOBILE PHONES AND TABLETS ARE NOT SUPPORTED FOR ENTERING APPLICATIONS. IF YOU EXPERIENCE PROBLEMS ENTERING AN APPLICATION USING EITHER A MOBILE PHONE OR TABLET PLEASE USE A COMPUTER WITH THE LATEST VERSION OF FIREFOX, CHROME, INTERNET EXPLORER, OR SAFARI FOR FULL SUPPORT!
Frustrated applicants said the situation was reminiscent of October's troubled roll-out of the Affordable Care Act and the initially-overloaded Healthcare.gov website.
"They have missed their deadline of the window opening, and instead of addressing the issue, they're really avoiding it. They're avoiding communication with those that are trying to apply and it's just not fair," Washington said. "I think they need to extend their time."
EBR Housing Authority Executive Director Richard Murray was not available for an interview Thursday, but said over the phone that the website works properly and that servers were simply overloaded. When asked whether more time would be added to the application period, Murray said he would make that decision when he returned to the office and assessed the situation.
The letter sent to potential applicants said PBV is similar to HCV, but keeps the monetary assistance tied to a specific housing unit as opposed to an individual.
Officials said roughly 6,000 people were able to register Thursday.