Photo of a verteran's hand reaching out to receive house keys from their landlord.

How to Find a VASH Voucher Apartment

Photo of a verteran's hand reaching out to receive house keys from their landlord.

After getting approved for a HUD-VASH voucher, it’s important to start searching for a new home as soon as possible.

There is a time limit to sign a lease with the voucher, and knowing which types of rentals accept Section 8 vouchers will help save time and frustration during your housing search. 

Veterans with VASH vouchers have 120 days to find an apartment and sign a lease. This is twice the 60-day limit for finding a home with regular Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.

To start the search for an apartment or house, first make sure that you’re looking for the right types of rental housing.

  1. Find a home or apartment that is either privately owned, or a flat rent affordable housing residence.


    A HUD-VASH voucher can be used to rent homes and apartments that are owned by a private landlord or property manager.

    The search for a privately owned home can be difficult in some parts of the country. In many areas, private landlords and property managers can refuse tenants who have a Section 8 voucher.

    In response, many states and local governments passed laws to protect renters with a Housing Choice Voucher. However, a large part of the country does not have these protections.

    Vouchers are also accepted at certain affordable housing residences.

    There are some housing programs that do not have subsidized rent. Instead, tenants are charged an affordable monthly rent that is below market rate. Since these residences do not have income-based rent, Section 8 Vouchers are eligible.

    Examples of the programs that must accept vouchers include:

    • Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)
    • HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME)
    • Section 515 Rural Rental Housing

    Note: Some of these rentals may have another housing subsidy stacked onto it that makes the monthly rent income-based. These types of affordable housing are not eligible, because they already provide income-based rent.

    Restrictions

    Residences where HUD-VASH vouchers cannot be used in any circumstance include:

    • College or other school dormitories.
    • Penal, reformatory, medical, mental, or similar rooms in a public or private institution.
    • Any home occupied by tenants who are not part of the Section 8 household.
    • Affordable housing properties that already provide income-based rent, including:
    • Public or Indian Housing
    • Section Project-Based Rental Assistance
    • Section 8 Project-Based Voucher
    • USDA Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance
    • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
    • Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities
    • Any other federal, state or local housing program that offers income-based rent.

    Unlike regular Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, HUD-VASH vouchers may in some cases be used for shelter or transitional housing settings, or for residence at VA Medical Center properties, in the interest of quickly moving homeless veterans off of the streets.

    With an idea in mind for a type of home, start looking for an affordable rental by contacting the housing authority.

  2. Ask the housing authority for a list of landlords.


    Before searching local advertisements, first check if the housing authority has a list of participating landlords. 

    The housing authority may have a list of landlords who generally accept Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The housing authority may also have a list of landlords interested in renting to veterans.

    Not every agency has a list like this, but it can help to greatly reduce the time it takes to find a unit.

    If the housing authority doesn’t have a list of landlords available, you must find an available rental on your own time.

  3. Search for rental advertisements online or locally.


    Rental ads can be found online, and through local means like newspapers or organizations that help low-income households.

    While looking for available rentals, keep the search within the housing authority’s service area. Commonly known as the jurisdiction, this is the only area where the agency can provide rental assistance. Any rental located outside of the housing authority’s jurisdiction will be denied.

    Veterans in the HUD-VASH program must also keep up with their case management and supportive services. The local VA Medical Center can determine if rentals are within reach of local service providers.

    After finding an advertisement for a suitable home, an application must be submitted and approved by the landlord.

  4. Submit an application for tenancy.


    Once an available rental has been found, submit an application to the landlord or property manager.

    Regular Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers require tenants to sign an initial lease for at least one year. However, HUD-VASH vouchers can be used for housing with shorter lease terms so that homeless veterans can quickly get into stable housing.

    The amount of household information required in the application will vary by each landlord. An application fee may be required as well. Landlords, and even housing authorities are allowed to charge their own application fee to become a tenant.

    In many cases, the landlord will also do a credit and criminal background check.

    When a landlord approves your application, the last requirement is to have the condition of the home inspected.

  5. Have the housing authority inspect the home.


    After getting approved by a landlord, report this back to the housing authority as soon as possible to get it inspected.

    Any apartment or house that accepts Housing Choice Vouchers must pass HUD’s health and safety inspection. The inspection checks for standards like heat, water, and structural damage.

    Once the home passes inspection, the household can start moving in.

  6. Move in.

    Now that everything is approved, it’s time to move into your new home!

    During the move-in process, households have to cover their own moving expenses. However, some local organizations may have programs that assist renters in need. Keep this in mind, especially when looking for housing away from your current residence.

    Now, the household will have to pay only a portion of their monthly income for rent.

What’s Next?

Veterans will have their case management needs evaluated at least annually by VA Medical Center staff. If the VA Medical Center certifies that a veteran no longer needs supportive services, they do not lose their rental assistance voucher.

When veterans transition out of HUD-VASH case management, the housing authority will transfer them to a regular Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. The HUD-VASH voucher and services can now be used to help other veterans experiencing homelessness.

Continue Reading Low Income Housing Guide

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.

Veterans may find themselves using VASH vouchers in properties supported by other federal programs. The Low-Income Housing Guide provides information on a wide range of federal affordable housing programs that assist low-income veterans and others.