Photo of a woman sitting at her desk with a computer. She is clearly in frustration, with one hand holding her nose while her eyes are closed.

How to overcome the challenges of finding open waitlists 

Photo of a woman sitting at her desk with a computer. She is clearly in frustration, with one hand holding her nose while her eyes are closed.

Applying for affordable housing waitlists can be difficult for renters in any part of the country. A number of challenges may arise that applicants do not expect.

While it can be frustrating to run into any of these issues, applying for housing is still possible with some patience and preparation.

This is the first part of a series of articles to help renters overcome the challenges of applying for affordable housing.

Many renters have trouble finding open waitlists because of a shortage of information that’s needed to apply. These lack of details prevent many renters from having a successful plan of action when applying.

In addition, there is a lot of misleading information about waiting lists circulated online that can make it hard for some to apply.

Read below to find out what to do when facing common difficulties of finding open waiting lists.

Problem: Waitlist information is unavailable online.

Sometimes, discovering any waitlist information at all can be difficult in certain areas.

This tends to happen in areas that do not have the resources to widely publish information online. These waitlists are often located in rural areas with low populations.

There are also some housing offices that simply choose to not put waitlist information on the internet.

In either situation, it’s nearly impossible to know if these areas have available waitlists just by searching online.

To overcome being left in the dark, contact the affordable housing offices in these areas, and ask how waitlist information is announced.

Solution: Contact housing offices for details.

Oftentimes, the representative will respond that information will be published in a newspaper or similar local advertisement. But the office may use other, more specific methods.

To find contact information for affordable housing providers, visit Affordable Housing Online. There is a directory of HUD housing authorities by state, and apartment listings have contact details for property management offices.

Problem: Misinformation about a waitlist is spread online.

While the internet is a great resource that makes it easier to find housing, there is also a lot of misleading and outright false information posted on many websites and social media platforms.

After finding out about an open waitlist, it may be paired with false information that it’s only open for certain households, such as families with children.

To avoid any misinformation, learn the basics about applying from a trusted source.

Solution: Learn the basics about waitlist eligibility.

Most waitlists are open for any low-income applicant, including those who are:

  • Single
  • Residents of another area
  • With or without children

Some waitlists do have applicant restrictions, but it is rare. If a waitlist announcement states that there are restrictions, make sure to confirm that information with the housing office.

Problem: Local waitlist openings are not available.

Finding available housing locally is the most taxing task for many renters. Especially in largely populated areas, waiting lists for certain types of housing may only be open for brief periods. And once these waitlists close, they may not open again for months or years.

This challenge occurs almost everywhere in the country because of the high demand for affordable housing. A single waitlist can gain the interest of renters from many different areas, which leaves locals with limited opportunities.

Some areas also simply do not have affordable housing opportunities. This is most common in rural areas with very low populations.

To overcome an overwhelming amount of applicants who are competing for limited housing resources, a trend called “Waitlist Shopping” has begun throughout the nation.

Solution: Start waitlist shopping.

“Waitlist shopping” is a new term that describes low-income renters who scour the internet to apply for multiple open waitlists. They are looking at housing opportunities in many different areas, even if it means they will have to relocate far from home.

Today, there are numerous affordable housing applications that are available online. With the use of the internet, renters are now able to find more applications for housing than ever before.

In effect, renters are “shopping” online for new affordable housing opportunities.

This trend has become popular because applicants have realized that it increases their chances of getting housing. It could take a long time to get affordable housing if applicants only focus on waitlist openings in local areas.

The easiest way that renters can find open waitlists in other areas is by doing a simple online search, or by visiting Affordable Housing Online.

But before applying for just any waitlist opening, there are some important factors to consider:


Most importantly, applicants must be willing and financially able to relocate for the housing that’s available. It is not recommended to look for housing in an area where the applicant does not want to, or cannot reside.

Other important things to consider when looking for housing in a new area include transportation, schooling, employment, and childcare.


Also, waitlists in many areas have preferences for local applicants. Preferences give priority to certain populations who are in great need of assistance in that area. Common preferences include elderly, disabled, and local applicants.

If an applicant qualifies for any common preferences, targeting waitlists with those preferences may help shorten their wait.

However, while waitlist shopping, keep an eye out for waitlists with a local preference. The preference may require that the applicant is from the city, county or state where housing is provided.

If a waitlist has a local preference, there may be a long wait for applicants who are from another area. Even if an applicant qualifies for other waitlist preferences, a local preference is usually considered the highest priority.

If it’s unknown if a waitlist has preferences, contact the housing office for details.


All renters who are applying for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program should be aware that the vouchers are portable. This means that once certain conditions are met, the voucher can eventually be transferred to a new area.

Before porting a voucher, it’s important to be aware of the same factors as above about moving to a new location. But if moving to a new area to get a Section 8 Voucher is practical, that voucher may be ported out to a new area in the future.

Stay tuned to find out how to overcome another challenge of applying for affordable housing: Understanding Eligibility.