Section 8 Waiting List Trends: September, 2023

Overhead photo of a rural community with trees that are changing to yellow and red colors during the fall season.

Year-round, Affordable Housing Online’s team of housing analysts reports on Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) waiting list openings in the U.S. These announcements have details about applying that are vital to renters who are searching for low-income housing.

Analyzing data from these openings each month reveals trends that highlight the obstacles faced by renters trying to get a voucher — including where waiting lists have opened, the duration of each opening, 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 a look at what we found in September this year:

1. September Section 8 waiting list openings returned to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Affordable Housing Online found 30 new Section 8 HCV waiting list openings in September, 2023. 
  • All of these were “scheduled” openings with a set opening and closing date. There were also eight waiting lists that opened before September and closed during the month.
  • September is typically a busy month for waiting list openings. This year’s September openings reflect a return to pre-pandemic numbers for the month.

2. Large housing authorities in urban areas opened the most waiting lists.

  • 70% of September 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) Section 8 HCV programs.  
  • September openings were overwhelmingly in urban areas, with 84% located in metropolitan counties.

3. Most waiting lists kept open only a short time, but longer than previous months.

  • 68% of scheduled Section 8 HCV waiting lists in September, 2023 were kept open for four days or less, and 39% were open for only one day or less.
  • September waiting lists were kept open an average of 12.4 days, twice as long as waiting lists that opened in August.

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

  • Three-quarters (76%) of waiting lists open in September, 2023 used online applications
  • 83% of waiting lists with online applications had no other way to apply.
  • Just three waiting list openings had the option to apply in person, and for all of these cases that was the only way to apply. Two of the housing authorities allowing only in-person applications were big programs, managing 500-1,249 vouchers each.

5. Fewer waiting lists in August used the preference for local residents.

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

Among September, 2023 waiting lists, 40% had a “Local Preference.” 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, September, 2023:

  1. Persons who live or work locally (15)
  2. Persons with disabilities (8)
  3. Domestic violence survivors (7)
  4. Persons who are working/employed (6)
  5. Veterans & Persons experiencing homelessness (5 each)

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

Section 8 HCV waiting lists were opened in every region of the country in September, 2023; with 20 states seeing at least one waiting list opening. Only Texas had more than a couple of openings this month. States with larger populations tended to have more waiting list openings.

Top States for September, 2023 HCV Waiting List Openings:

  1. TX (7)
  2. NY (4)
  3. IN & VA (3)
  4. CO, FL, WA (2)

See how this September’s waiting list activity compares to historical trends by checking out our annual report — Offline: Limited Access to Section 8 Vouchers During the Pandemic. This 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.

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