Section 8 Waiting List Trends: October, 2023

Aerial photo of an apartment community during the wintertime. Trees are bare, and snow is on the ground and on the roof of the apartment buildings.

Every time a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) waiting list opening in the country is discovered by a researcher at Affordable Housing Online, many details are reported to help renters in search of rental assistance get the information they need to apply.

At the end of every month, our team analyzes the data collected from these openings to discover the obstacles faced by renters trying to get a voucher. This includes where waiting lists have opened, the types of housing authorities that are accepting new applicants, and the accessibility of applications.

To provide a valuable resource for affordable housing policymakers and advocates, our team highlights these trends in a monthly report. Here’s what our researchers found in October this year:

1. October Section 8 waiting list openings are above pre-pandemic levels.

  • Affordable Housing Online found 28 new HCV waiting list openings in October, 2023. 
  • All of these were “scheduled” openings with a set opening and closing date. There were also 25 waiting lists that opened before October and closed during the month.
  • October is typically a busy month for waiting list openings. This year’s October openings are twice the number for this month in 2022, and the most October openings found by Affordable Housing Online since tracking began in 2016.

2. More waiting lists opened by small programs, but large programs still dominate.

  • 59% of October waiting list openings were done by housing authorities with extra large (10,000+ vouchers), large (1,250-9,999 vouchers) and medium high (500-1,249 vouchers) HCV programs. However, smaller housing authorities (less than 500 vouchers) accounted for a larger share of openings this month (41%) than in September (30%).
  • October openings were overwhelmingly in urban areas, with 79% located in metropolitan counties.

3. Most waiting lists were kept open only a short time, but one-day openings declined.

  • 64% of October scheduled waiting lists were kept open for four days or less, and 28% were open for one day or less. This is down from September, when 39% of new waiting lists had one-day openings.
  • October waiting lists were kept open an average of 7.9 days, down from an average of 12.4 days in September.

4. Online applications were by far the most common way to apply.

  • Three-quarters (75%) of waiting lists open in October 2023 used online applications
  • 86% of waiting lists with online applications had no other way to apply.
  • Just four waiting list openings (14%) had the option to apply in person, and for three of these cases, that was the only way to apply.

5. Forty percent of October waiting lists had a preference for local residents.

Among October, 2023 waiting lists, 39% had a preference for applicants who already live in the area. Use of the “Local Preference” makes it harder for low-income renters living outside an area to get a Section 8 voucher and move into the community, even if they are able to get on the waiting list.

Top Preferences for Waiting List Priority, October 2023:

  1. Persons who live or work locally (11)
  2. Persons with disabilities (6)
  3. The elderly (5)
  4. Veterans (3)

Housing authorities use preferences to give priority to high-need groups in their communities, such as seniors, those with disabilities, or those experiencing homelessness. 

6. Waiting list openings were widely distributed around the country.

Section 8 HCV waiting lists were opened in most regions of the country in October, 2023; with 18 states having at least one waiting list open up. No state had more than three openings this month. States with larger populations tended to have more waiting list openings.

Top States for October, 2023 Section 8 HCV Waiting List Openings:

  1. LA & TX (3)
  2. CA, IL, MI, NJ, PA,& VA (2)

See how this October’s waiting list activity compares to historical trends by checking out our annual report — Offline: Limited Access to Section 8 Vouchers During the Pandemic. Our in-depth report looks at Affordable Housing Online waiting list data from 2016-2020, highlighting the challenges that low-income renters face trying to get rental assistance vouchers.