Photo of a pen positioned at the start of a blank paper rental application.

How to Apply for Project-Based Voucher Apartments

Photo of a pen positioned at the start of a blank paper rental application.

When applying for a Project-Based Voucher (PBV) apartment, knowing what to expect can help eliminate some of the stress that may come.

Applications must be submitted to a locally-based housing office called a Public Housing Agency (known as a housing authority). These offices are overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Because of the high demand for units with PBVs, housing authorities operate waiting lists for applicants. These waiting lists are for particular properties. When vacancies occur, housing authorities offer the units to the next household on that property’s waiting list.

HUD gives its housing authorities flexibility to set their own rules for a waiting list opening. Because of this, application requirements can vary in different parts of the country. Still, the general process is the same throughout all of the agencies.

These are the steps to apply for a Project-Based Voucher apartment:

  1. Find a housing authority with an open waiting list.

    Housing authorities manage a range of housing programs in their communities, including properties with PBV units. You must apply to the housing authority to live in one of these properties.

    Affordable Housing Online tracks Project-Based Voucher waiting list openings nationwide. Check for new waiting list openings at the top of the page, and scroll down for a list of openings by state.

    To apply for a PBV apartment, the waiting list must be open for applications. Housing authorities regularly open and close waiting lists throughout the year.

    Applicants are not required to live in the area to apply to most waiting lists. This means that a renter in California may apply for a waiting list opening in New York. Sometimes there are local restrictions, but it is rare.

    When an open waiting list is found, an application must be submitted to be placed on it.

  2. Complete the application.

    Project-Based Voucher applications are most commonly available online, by mail, or at an in-person location. Other means such as by email and phone may be used, as well

    Unlike a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) that can be used throughout a housing authority’s service area, you are applying to get housing at a specified property.

    • The PBV waiting list may be open for one, some, or all PBV properties.
    • Also unlike HCVs, some of these properties may have restrictions for apartments that are reserved for specific populations, such as seniors or persons with disabilities.
    • If a waiting list opening is for multiple properties, the applicant will be offered the first unit that they qualify for.

    Some housing authorities partner with a property management company who manages both the property and the waiting list. In these cases, the application process may be run through the management company, rather than the housing authority.

    The initial application is officially called the ‘preliminary application’ (or pre-application), but some offices keep it simple by just calling it an application.

    Some applications may be difficult to complete for persons with disabilities. If a disabled applicant needs help with the application, they can submit a reasonable accommodation request to the housing authority.

    Housing Tip: Do not pay for an application. It is against HUD policy for housing authorities to charge for a PBV application. If anyone is charging a fee for an application, they are either violating federal law, or a scammer.

    Most applications require the applicant to provide their:

    • First and last name
    • Date of birth
    • Social Security Number or Alien ID
    • Total gross income of all household members (with exceptions)

    An application may also have additional requirements, including:

    • Current mailing and/or email address
    • Phone number
    • Gender
    • Disability status
    • Race and ethnicity
    • Housing history
    • Criminal history
    • Proof of income
    • Preference verification

    When complete, the application must be submitted directly to the managing housing authority. Applications will only be accepted following the directions on the public notice. For example, if the application must be completed online only, paper applications will not be available, or accepted.

    Once the application is submitted, the housing authority will review it for waiting list placement.

  3. Wait for the application to be processed.

    While the office reviews applications, it may take up to a couple of weeks or months to get a response.

    This time frame depends on the size of the waiting list, and the housing authority’s available resources. Usually, online applications are processed more quickly than paper applications.

    If the application meets the preliminary qualifications, the household may be placed on the waiting list.

    Due to the high demand for PBV housing, not all applicants who qualify for the waiting list may be placed on it; even if all requirements are met. Many waiting lists are open for only a brief period of time, and there are limited spots available.

    However, this is different if the waiting list has been open for a long period of time. Because there are still open spots, households that meet the preliminary qualifications should be placed on these waiting lists.

    When an application is placed on the waiting list, it is sorted one of two ways:

    • Date and time the application is received by the housing authority.
    • Random lottery selection.

    Preferences also factor into waiting list placement, but not all waiting lists have preferences. Applicants who do not qualify for preferences may have a longer wait to receive an offer for a PBV unit.

    After sorting the waiting list, the housing authority will send confirmation to applicants.

  4. Confirm your status on the waiting list.

    To contact households, the housing authority will use information provided by the applicant in the application.

    This is why it is important to give the housing authority valid, and accessible contact information. If a notice from the housing authority is undeliverable or left unread, the household may be taken off the waiting list.

    Housing Tip: Applicants who were not placed on the waiting list may not get any notice from the housing office. Some housing authorities only reach out to those who were placed on the waiting list.

    Being placed on a waiting list is a great accomplishment, but it does not yet guarantee that the household will receive rental assistance.

    Applicants who do not pay attention to the next part of the process risk losing their spot on the waiting list.

  5. Stay in contact with the housing authority.

    Depending on the area, it may take a housing authority months or years to get through all households on the waiting list. While waiting, applicants may get a notice that requires a response to stay on the waiting list.

    To stay on a waiting list, keep contact information up to date, and reply to all notices that require a response.

    While waiting for a PBV unit, housing authorities allow applicants to check their status on a waiting list. Some housing authorities will tell applicants their exact spot on the waiting list, but others will only confirm if the household is still on the waiting list.

    Once an application reaches the top of the waiting list, the household will get a notice from the housing authority. But there is one final eligibility screening before getting a PBV apartment.

  6. Attend the eligibility interview.

    The last requirement to get an apartment with a PBV is to complete the final application during an in-person meeting with the housing authority.

    Housing authorities will either require all household members, all adult household members, or only the applicant to be present. The required members must attend the interview at the scheduled date and time, so plan accordingly if the location is far away from home.

    When the interview is over, the housing authority will determine if the household is qualified to be offered a unit with a PBV.

    If the household meets all requirements, they will be given a PBV apartment.

    However, if the household is denied, there is still one last chance to get a voucher.

  7. Request an informal review (if denied).

    If the household is denied after the eligibility interview, contact the housing authority to request an Informal Review.

    An Informal Review is a hearing process for applicants who have been denied admission into the Project-Based Voucher program.

    To prepare for this review, know that a housing authority must deny an application if anyone in the household:

    • Has been evicted from HUD or federally assisted housing within a certain amount of years (usually 3-5) for drug related criminal activity.
    • Has been convicted of the manufacture of methamphetamine on the premises of HUD or other federally assisted housing.
    • Is registered as a lifetime sex offender.

    If the household is denied again, the only option next is to continue applying to other properties and waiting lists.

    But, if the re-evaluation determines that the household is qualified, they will be given a PBV unit.

What’s Next?

Once the housing authority’s offer for a PBV unit is accepted, you can move into your pre-arranged apartment!

About once a year, the housing authority will re-examine the household’s income for continued eligibility. The rental assistance will continue as long as the household is still qualified.

How To Request A Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher

As mentioned earlier in this guide, there is a unique benefit for tenants who stay in good standing in their PBV apartment for at least one year.

These tenants can request the next available Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher from the housing authority. This will allow them to rent in different areas, even in other cities and states.

Project-Based Voucher tenants can check if they qualify for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher by contacting the housing authority that manages their apartment.

Housing authority contact information can be found on Affordable Housing Online.

Continue Reading

Applying for affordable housing can be involved and complicated. Affordable Housing Online has written a guide to make it easier for renters to get the housing assistance they need.