Who qualifies for Public Housing?

  1. Basic Requirements
  2. Income Eligibility
  3. Restrictions and Preferences
  4. Common Disqualifiers

Step 1: Basic Requirements

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old, and a United States citizen or a noncitizen who has eligible immigration status.
    • Eligible immigration status includes a lawful permanent resident; registry immigrant; refugee or asylee; conditional entrant; parolee; withholding grantee; person granted 1986 amnesty status; resident of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, or Guam; victim or relative of a victim of trafficking.
  • Single persons are eligible, as well as households with or without children.
    • HUD commonly refers to a household as a “family,” so don’t let that term confuse you. A “family” can consist of one or more person, and having children is not required to be considered a “family.”
  • You can apply to most nationwide waiting lists, regardless of where you currently live.
    • Some waiting lists may have restrictions allowing only local residents to apply.

Step 2: Income Eligibility

  • The household must make less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for the area where the voucher will be used (this is known as the income limit).
    • The AMI for your current area is not used for income qualification.
    • The income limit amount increases for each additional member of the household (including children).
  • A household’s AMI is determined by its gross income, which is the amount of money received before subtracting taxes and other expenses.
  • Employment income earned by household members younger than 18 years old is not included.

How do I know my income limit?

Usually the housing authority will provide a chart of the income limits for each household size.

If you can't find the income limits, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Affordable Housing Online home page.
  2. Type your city or county in the search bar on the top of this page, and select your area in the drop down menu that appears.
  3. Scroll down to the chart in the “Income Qualifications for HUD Rental Assistance” section.

Step 3: Restrictions and Preferences


Many waiting lists have preferences. Applicants who qualify for waiting list preferences will receive assistance before applicants who do not. Applicants who do not qualify for preferences will usually have a longer wait to receive assistance. Examples of preferences that may appear on a waiting list include the elderly, persons with disabilities, and local residents. More information about preferences can be found here. It is important to know that preferences are not requirements. Applicants may still apply, even if they do not qualify for any preferences.


Sometimes, a waiting list may only be open for applicants of a specific demographic, such as homeless or disabled persons. If a housing authority has restrictions for a Public Housing opening, the information must be approved by HUD and detailed on the office’s Annual Plan, along with a statement in the public notice.

Step 4: Common Disqualifiers

  • HUD Violations
    • A household will be disqualified if any member:
      • Has been evicted from HUD housing in the last five years.
      • Had assistance terminated by a housing authority for any reason.
      • Owes money to a housing authority.
  • Criminal Record
    • Having a criminal record may make it difficult for a person to receive housing, but it does not automatically disqualify them.
    • A person with an arrest record, but no conviction, has a greater chance of qualifying over someone who has been convicted of their offense.
    • Felons face much greater difficulty in qualifying, especially if it was a violence or drug related sentence.
    • Applicants with a history of drug use, alcohol abuse, violence, and other criminal activity that would threaten other residents may have difficulty qualifying.
    • Each housing authority operates differently, but may allow persons with a criminal record to qualify based on the length of time since the offense occurred, and the severity of the crime.
    • Persons on any state lifetime sex offender registry are ineligible.
    • Recent convictions may deem a household ineligible.
    • Any person who has been evicted from federally assisted housing in the past three years for drug-related criminal activity would be denied, unless special circumstances are met
      • The household member who engaged in the criminal activity must either successfully complete a supervised drug rehabilitation program approved by the housing authority, or be removed from the household. Even then, it is up to the housing authority's discretion to approve these households.
  • False Information
    • Be truthful with the information you write on an application.
    • Putting false information on the application may not only disqualify you, but also get you in legal trouble.
    • If you are unsure about what to write down in a section of the application, contact the housing office.