Affordable Housing Talk with Dave Layfield – 11/11/2015


Each Wednesday, Dave Layfield, our founder and resident affordable housing expert, does a live video chat with our users at 3:00 pm ET on He usually spends an hour or more answering users’ questions about affordable housing assistance. Users can come on camera live with Dave and ask any question. Most of the time, he has the answer, but if he is unable to answer the question at the time, he will research the question after the chat and then reach out to the user.

Following are the questions and Dave’s answers from the live video chat of Wednesday, November 11, 2015. We have embedded the recording of the video chat for you to watch.



@Shermanwillia: I’m waiting for my background check to get approved. How long will that take and should I start looking for apartments?

Dave: I’m assuming that this is for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. If so, you definitely should start looking for an apartment, and you should have started looking a while ago. This means the housing authority is in the final process of approving you for the Section 8 HCV program, and the clock will start ticking soon. Background checks don’t take very long, as they are done by a computer. Usually, a national background check is produced in minutes.

Assuming you don’t have a criminal background that will trigger a problem, you should expect to move through that process very quickly.


@Kimberl23751101: I got my notice of approval to be placed on a waiting list. However, my notice noted that my housing voucher would be statewide. I applied in Illinois but don’t want to live in Illinois. Is this true?

Dave: There is not enough information here for me to help. If your voucher is statewide, then perhaps you applied to a state agency that operates the program in rural areas, but in most instances, assistance is broken up by county.

However, in regards to the second part of your question, if you applied in Illinois, you first have to live in Illinois for at least a year. There is policy called portability that allows you move your voucher to a new area after you have at the voucher for at least a year.


@Shermanwillia: About how much is a one bedroom voucher in Los Angeles, CA?

Dave: That’s not how the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program works. There isn’t a specific amount that the voucher is good for. You’re going to pay 30% of your income for rent. That being said, there are rent limits that don’t allow the monthly rent payment of a unit to go over a specific amount, depending on the number of bedrooms.

To find out what that rent limit is, search our database for your area of interest, and scroll down to find the “Fair Market Rent” (FMR) section. Keep in mind that the figure on that page represents the general FMR of that area, and the housing authority may have set a lower limit. We recommend contacting the housing authority that covers that area for the specific figure.


@WelchShante: I have been trying to get affordable housing for years. What can I do?

Dave: I’m assuming you’ve already applied, and you are on a waiting list. I would keep applying to any type of housing assistance you qualify for. For example, other than the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, there is a Section 8 Project-Based Voucher program that offers specific properties to live in for assistance. There are also Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Public Housing properties that provide rental assistance.

Please search for our database for your area of interest to find out what programs are available.


@michaelrae2000: How do I apply for housing, and does being on disability mean I would be on a different waiting list?

Dave: If you are applying for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, then your answer is no, there is not a separate waiting list for disabled persons. However, many housing authorities do have preferences for disabled applicants. So, if you do have a disability, make sure you check that box on applications identifying that preference. You will need to be prepared to provide official documentation of your disability to apply. Also, if you are interested in the Public Housing program, many housing authorities do have a separate waiting list for senior and/or disabled applicants.

You apply to be put onto an open waiting list through a local housing authority or apartment community. You may apply to any open waiting list in the country, regardless of your location. You do not have to live in the area you are applying to, but you must live within the jurisdiction of the housing authority that is offering rental assistance. In regards to Section 8, you must live within that jurisdiction for at last one year before being able to transfer it to a new area, known as porting.

How to get a pre-application varies depending on each office’s policy. Pre-applications are usually available online, by mail, or in the office. After submitting your pre-application, the housing authority sorts through applicants and places a select number on the waiting list. Keep in mind that due to the extremely high demand of affordable housing assistance, even those who are qualified are not guaranteed to be placed on a waiting list. Furthermore, please understand that the Section 8 and Public Housing programs are not emergency housing programs, and applicants are often on waiting lists for several years.

Please view all open Section 8 waiting lists we are aware of here, and all open Public Housing waiting lists we are aware of here.

You may also search our database for your area of interest to find information on that area, including affordable housing programs separate from Section 8 and Public Housing.