How Do I Apply to a Public Housing Waiting List?

  1. Obtain the application.
  2. Complete the application.
  3. Submit the application.

Applications must be submitted to the the Public Housing Agency (or housing authority) that manages the Public Housing program. Sometimes a local agency will partner with a housing authority, and operate the HCV program and its waiting list on behalf of the housing authority.

Step 1: Obtain the application.

  • After finding an open waiting list on Affordable Housing Online, the Public Housing Agency pages provide details on how to get an application for open waiting lists.
  • Applications are usually available online, by mail, or in the housing authority's office. Housing authority public notices and websites will state the methods on how to apply. The application must be obtained per the housing office’s instructions. For example, if the application must be completed online only, paper applications will not be available.
    • Reasonable Accommodation. The only exception to this rule is if a disabled applicant requires a reasonable accommodation to apply. Besides reasonable accommodations, if an applicant cannot complete the application on their own, they may have another person (like a social worker) complete the application on their behalf.
    • Online applications.
      • If the application is online, and an applicant does not have access to the Internet, they can use a friend or family member's computer/device, or one at a local library. Housing offices may also have computers on-site, but the amount of computers available is sometimes limited, and applicants may have to wait in line.
      • Online applications may require the applicant to create a free account through an online portal, and/or have a valid email address. If you do not have an email address, you can create one for free through providers such as Google. Keep your email account information in a safe, easy to access place.
  • Do not pay for an application. It is against HUD policy for housing authorities to charge for a Section 8 or Public Housing application. If someone is charging a fee for a Section 8 or Public Housing application, it is either violating federal law, or a scam.
  • If information on how to apply to a housing authority’s waiting list is not provided, contact the housing office for assistance.

Step 2: Complete the application.

The first application you will complete is a preliminary, or pre-application. Pre-applications sometimes do not ask for all information required to receive housing assistance. More information may be required to submit after the pre-application.

  • Most pre-applications require at least:
    • Applicant's first and last name
    • Applicant's date of birth
    • Applicant's Social Security Number or Alien ID
    • Gross income of all household members, including children.
      • Employment income earned by household members younger than 18 years old is not included.
  • Other applicant information that may be asked on a pre-application includes:
    • Current mailing and/or email address
    • Phone number
    • Gender
    • Disability status
    • Race and ethnicity
    • Housing history
    • Criminal history
  • Some applications are only one page, while others have multiple pages. Other information that is usually required includes the applicant’s mailing and/or email address, the applicant’s phone number, housing history, criminal history, and confirmation of preferences (if applicable).

Complete the application per the housing office’s instructions. The office may require the entire application or specific sections to be filled out, or it will be rejected. Some offices will return the application and require you to complete the missing information, but others will simply terminate the application.

Step 3: Submit the application.

  • The application must be submitted per the housing office’s instructions, or it will be disqualified.
    • For example, if the application can only be submitted online, paper applications will be rejected. Or, if the application can only be submitted in person, mailed applications will be rejected.
  • Applications submitted outside of the required date and time will be disqualified.
    • For example, if an application must be submitted by 5:00 pm, applications submitted at 5:01 pm or later will be rejected. Or, if a mailed application must be postmarked by January 1st, those that are postmarked January 2nd or later will be rejected.
  • For almost all waiting list openings, multiple application submissions from the same household will be rejected.
    • Depending on the housing office's policy, multiple application submissions may deem the entire household ineligible.