How to get low-income apartments with no waiting list

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Updated June, 2022!

Due to the high demand of affordable housing throughout the country, it’s extremely rare to find these housing opportunities with no waiting list. But they do exist.

Almost all affordable housing programs nationwide have a waiting list of applicants. To discover one of these very rare opportunities, it will require a lot of time to make phone calls, send emails, and search the internet.

Still, with so many types of low-income housing rental assistance programs, it would be worth a try to get on a few waiting lists at the same time, or as a waiting list opening comes up. You might be able to shorten your wait time if you know about the different programs and their waiting lists.

Let’s start by going over the general waiting list details for different rental assistance programs available for low-income households:

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV)

Waiting lists to apply for this program open infrequently, and usually for a short time. If a household is able to get their application placed on the waiting list, the time it takes to get to the top of the waiting list could be months or years. The HCV program is in extremely high demand, and Affordable Housing Online has never discovered an area with a HCV program that has no waiting list.

Consider applying to HCV programs operated by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs, or housing authorities) in rural or small towns. Many of those areas will have shorter waiting lists, if it is open for applicants.

Be aware: You must be willing to move into their rural or small town jurisdictions for the first year of using your Housing Choice Voucher, and be in good standing at the end of the first year in order to move somewhere else with the voucher.

Note: Some PHAs set aside a small number of special Housing Choice Vouchers that are given to certain populations (like victims of domestic violence and homeless persons) without entering a waiting list.

And in other instances, a housing authority give some vouchers to persons living in toxic units (which contain lead paint, asbestos, radon, etc…); or in unhealthy units.

These special vouchers are not available to the general public, and may require a referral from a participating organization.

Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers (PBV)

A Section 8 Project-Based Voucher (PBV) is different from the HCV program, in that the voucher is tied to a specific apartment complex. A Project-Based Voucher cannot be transferred to a different property.

Waiting lists for Project-Based Vouchers are usually administered by the local HUD housing authority. Some PBV waiting lists might be administered by a property management company working with the housing authority.

Almost all Project-Based Voucher properties have a waiting list. Some properties in low-populated areas may have immediate availability, but that is rare.

Public Housing

Public Housing properties also offer rental assistance that’s tied to a specific apartment complex. Like Project-Based Vouchers, Public Housing assistance cannot be transferred to another property.

Waiting lists are either administered by a HUD housing authority, or a partnering property management company. As with PBVs, almost all Public Housing properties have a waiting list. On rare occasions, some properties in some rural areas may have no waiting list.

Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD)

RAD properties are Public Housing developments that were renovated with Section 8 program funding. Anyone on the property’s original Public Housing waiting list stays on the list, and current residents get first dibs for a RAD unit.

HUD housing authorities are actively converting our Public Housing stock to RAD housing nationwide. To find RAD housing without a waiting list right now might be difficult and not worth the time and effort.

Project Based Rental Assistance (PBRA)

The PBRA program is directly administered by HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing. The PBRA program is tied to specific units in a property, usually owned and managed by private owners. Some PBRA properties are operated by the local housing authority.

On rare occasions, you may find a PBRA property with no waiting list, but generally only in rural areas.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

The LIHTC program is currently financing 90% of all new low-income housing developments. Private management companies and individual owners usually manage these communities; and some are managed by a housing authority.

There may be some LIHTC properties in areas with low populations that have no waiting list.

Rural Development (RD) Housing

Unlike most HUD programs, many apartments funded through Rural Development rental assistance programs may have a very short waiting list; or none at all.

These communities usually have a private owner or management company; but some are associated with housing authorities.

Households with the lowest incomes are given priority, so that means if you have very low or no income, you will get a chance to move into an apartment before other applicants.

Senior Housing and Housing for Persons with Disabilities

Many affordable housing developments are built for senior and/or disabled residents. In most cases, the head of household (or spouse) must be 62 and over, or have a certifiable disability. There are also “Near-Elderly” properties, which are usually for tenants at least 55 years old.

You may find Senior/Disabled properties with no waiting list in some low populated areas. And even if there is a wait, it may be shorter than other low-income rental assistance waiting lists.

Tips for a short wait time

The unfortunate truth is that it is very rare to find an affordable opportunity with no waiting list in the U.S. The number of households needing low-income rental assistance keeps growing, and the supply has not kept up with the need.

To find affordable housing as quickly as possible, the following suggestions will help cut your wait time:

Get started on your housing search

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