Affordable Housing Online is monitoring the federal government's response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. As of March 13, 2020, Public Housing Agencies across the nation are closing their doors to the public. Most offices are still running and will communicate by phone, email, or mail. Some offices have drop boxes installed outside, so documents can still be hand-delivered. Visit the housing authority's website for the latest on its current operations, if one is available. If there is no information online, contact the housing authority directly. Due to a high volume of calls and modified office hours in most areas, expect a long wait time (days or weeks) for a response. To find your local PHA's contact info, browse by state here.

An extensive list of coronavirus resources for low-income households can be found here.

How Do I Know If I’m Eligible?

  1. Confirm that you meet the basic qualifications.
  2. Calculate your household’s income.
  3. Determine if there are any preferences and/or restrictions.
  4. Know common factors that may disqualify an application.

Step 1: Confirm that you meet the basic qualifications.

At least one adult household member must have a disability, which includes physical disability, developmental disability and chronic mental illness. Single persons are eligible, as well as households without children. (HUD commonly refers to a household as a “family,” so don’t let that term confuse you. A HUD family can consist of one person, and having children is not required.) Applicants do not need to document if they are a United States citizen or noncitizen who has eligible immigration status.

Step 2: Calculate your household’s income.

The household must make less than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) in the area to which they are applying, or less than 30% of AMI for some properties built after 2012. This is referred to as the income limit, and the figure rises for each additional member of the household (including children). An estimate of the income limit in a specific area can be found by using Affordable Housing Online’s search bar at the top of this page, and scrolling down to the chart in the “Understanding Affordable Housing - Rental Assistance” section. The income limit data on that page comes from HUD’s public database, but housing offices have the ability to set their own income limits, so always confirm the specific income qualifications with the office. A housing office often provides the exact income limits in its public notice announcing the opening, or the information may be available on its website. A household’s income is determined by its net income, which is the amount of money received after subtracting taxes and other expenses. However, employment income earned by household members younger than 18 years old is not included.

Step 3: Determine if there are any preferences and/or restrictions.

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, veterans, 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.

Also, the community may have its own restrictions on who can apply. Section 811 properties require one household member to qualify for the disability requirement, but there may be additional requirements. For example, the property may only accept tenants who are participants in a local assistance program.

Step 4: Know common factors that may disqualify an application.

The household’s housing 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 office 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. If applying to the Section 8 or Public Housing Program, 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 for all HUD programs.

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 property management company or landlord.