Applicants must be at least 18 years old, and a United States citizen or a non-citizen who has eligible immigration status. 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” consists of one or more persons, and having children is not required to be considered a “family.”
Though single persons are eligible for public housing, a single person may not occupy a rental unit with 2 or more bedrooms. If a public housing apartment project doesn’t have any one bedroom apartments, by default, single person households would not meet the residency threshold.
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.
The household must make less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) of the area they are applying to. This is referred to as the income limit, and the amount increases for each additional member of the household (including children). The income limit in a specific area can be found by searching for your area of interest on Affordable Housing Online, and scrolling down to the chart in the Understanding Affordable Housing section. The income limits for this program are in the chart titled “HUD Rental Assistance Income Limits.” Housing offices also often provide the exact income limits in its public notice announcing the opening, or the information may be available on its website. Employment income earned by household members younger than 18 years old is not included.
Many waiting lists have preferences. This means that applicants who qualify for the preferences will receive assistance before applicants who do not. Because of the preferences, applicants who do not qualify may 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. Further information about preferences can be found here. It is important to emphasize that preferences are not requirements. Applicants may still apply, even if they do not qualify for any preferences.
The Public Housing program usually operates waiting list openings in one of two ways. The waiting list will either be open to the general public, or have separate waiting lists for general applicants and elderly/disabled applicants. Also, a waiting list opening may be for a specific community, and that community may only be for a specific demographic such as the elderly or disabled persons. If there are separate waiting lists, one may be closed, while others are open.
The household’s rental history is taken into consideration. A list of prior rental history may be required, including the address of the property and landlord contact information. 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, or owes money to a housing authority.
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. Furthermore, felons face much greater difficulty in qualifying, especially if it was a violence or drug related sentence. Generally, 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. 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). Persons on any state lifetime sex offender registry are ineligible as well.
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.