Frequently Asked Affordable Housing Questions

Section 8 FAQs

What is Section 8?

Section 8 is a federally funded rental assistance program that pays private landlords the difference between what a low-income household can afford and the fair market rent.

Section 8 may refer to either the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program or the Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA) program. In both programs, the tenant typically pays 30% of their monthly income for housing costs.

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Waiting Lists FAQs

Why is the wait so long?

Because of the high demand of affordable housing, and comparatively low supply, it is not rare to be on a waiting list for several years. For example, in some areas, 20,000+ people may apply through an office that is only placing 1,000 of those applicants on the waiting list. Generally, large metropolitan areas have long waiting lists, while lower populated areas have shorter waiting lists. There are housing authorities and apartment communities with very short waiting lists, or no waiting lists at all, but these opportunities are extremely rare.

Also, the Section 8 and Public Housing programs tend to have the longest waiting lists. Affordable housing properties that offer other programs, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit programs, likely have shorter waiting lists than Section 8 and Public Housing. You can search our website for your area of interest, and scroll down to the list of affordable housing communities that may have other programs available.

Please contact the housing authority or apartment community for more information.

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Housing Assistance Eligibility FAQs

How do I apply for affordable housing assistance?

Depending on the housing program you apply to, applications for an open waiting list will be available from the area's housing authority, or by an affordable apartment community's management company (or landlord).

Housing authorities manage the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing programs, but not all offer both programs. The housing authority may also participate in other housing programs, and offer affordable apartment communities as well.

In addition to programs available by housing authorities, property management companies and private landlords operate affordable apartment communities.

How to get an application varies by each housing office. Applications are usually available online, in the office, or by calling to request one via mail.

The housing authority pages on Affordable Housing Online provide information on how to apply to a specific waiting list. You can find more information on how to apply to open Section 8 waiting lists here, and open Public Housing waiting lists here. If information on how to apply is not available, contact the housing authority for assistance.

Affordable apartment community pages on Affordable Housing online have buttons that allows you to email or call the property, and find out how to apply. If contact information is not available, visit the property in person. You can start your search for an affordable apartment here.

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Housing Policy, Landlords, and Tenants FAQs

Do HUD offices close while a government shutdown is in effect?

If the United States government has shut down, most Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offices will remain open. A government shutdown sometimes happens in the U.S. if Congress and the President do not reach an agreement on required budget legislation to fund government operations.

For our full coverage of the 2018-19 Government Shutdown visit our 2019 Government Shutdown Timeline.

There are several managing offices within HUD, which all have varying operations during a shutdown. And it's important for tenants and landlords to know what services are available to them during a shutdown. Here's details on the most noteworthy HUD offices that has direct relations with tenants and landlords:

  • Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH)

HUD’s Description: The Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) ensures safe, decent, and affordable housing, creates opportunities for residents' self-sufficiency and economic independence, and assures the fiscal integrity of all program participants.

What does it do? Basically, the PIH runs the Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing Programs for HUD at the federal level.

Is it closed during a shutdown? No. The PIH has excepted activities which are not disrupted by a government shutdown. These activities include keeping the Public Housing Authorities up and running, and ensuring the PHA’s have access to draw down needed funds (including reserved funds, at least for the month of the shutdown). PIH also ensures their PIH website used by Housing Authorities for reporting, is kept online and running as it should.

  • Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO)

HUD’s Description: The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is to eliminate housing discrimination, promote economic opportunity, and achieve diverse, inclusive communities by leading the nation in the enforcement, administration, development, and public understanding of federal fair housing policies and laws.

What does it do? The FHEO investigates fair housing complaints, conducts compliance reviews, ensures civil rights in HUD programs and manages fair housing grants.

Is it closed during a shutdown? Partially. The FHEO has excepted activities which are not disrupted by a government shutdown. These activities include keeping funding distributed to grantees for investigation of complaints. FHEO may also recall staff during a shutdown, if needed to pursue prompt judicial action, issue warrants, or to respond to requests from the Department of Justice regarding civil rights matters. FHEO will keep a limited number of staff at work to maintain the running of their computer systems.

  • Office of Housing (Housing)

HUD’s description: The Office of Housing plays a vital role for the nation's homebuyers, homeowners, renters, and communities through its nationally administered programs. It includes the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the largest mortgage insurer in the world.

What does it do? The Office of Housing operates HUD’s mortgage insurance and mortgages through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), manages HUD's Project-Based Rental Assistance and other rental assistance programs, and supports Housing for the Elderly and for Persons with Disabilities programs.

Is it closed during a shutdown? No, it’s mostly open. The Office of Housing has excepted activities which are not disrupted by a government shutdown. These activities include fulfilling obligations associated with Housing’s Project-Based Rental Assistance programs. Housing will also continue to respond to issues relating to the "imminent threat to the safety of the residents," or to the protection of property in HUD-insured or assisted multifamily projects.

  • Office of the Inspector General (OIG)

HUD’s Description: The primary mission of the OIG is to investigate and audit HUD programs and operations, and to respond to irregularities or violations of law or regulation in HUD programs and operations, especially as they might relate to protecting HUD funds.

What Does It Do? The Office of Inspector General (OIG) prevents and detects fraud, waste, and abuse in the programs and operations of HUD. The OIG conducts independent investigations, audits, and evaluations of HUD programs. The OIG also keeps the HUD Secretary and the Congress fully informed about HUD program deficiencies and weaknesses while also identifying best practices.

Is It Closed During a Shut Down? Yes, partially. The OIG will keep the minimum number of employees necessary to address emergency situations and to prevent the potential mismanagement of HUD’s financial assets.

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Complaints and Scams FAQs

How can I file a complaint?

To file a complaint about your unit or the property you are living in, contact the housing authority or management company that manages your unit.

You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search for housing authority or apartment community contact information.

If you feel you have been mistreated by a housing authority, apartment community, or landlord, visit HUD's web page here, and submit a complaint through the appropriate category.

If you are seeking legal advice, there are legal aid offices in every state that help low-income persons. You can search for a legal aid office near you here.

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Housing Authority FAQs

How can I find out the area the housing authority serves?

You can find out the area the housing authority serves on its Annual Plan, on Affordable Housing Online, and sometimes on the housing authority's website. You can also call the housing authority and ask a representative to confirm their jurisdiction.

Each housing authority serves a specific, city (or cities), county (or counties), or the entire state. The area served is its jurisdiction. Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders participating in that housing authority's program may only use their voucher within its jurisdiction.

This information can be found on the top of all housing authority pages on Affordable Housing Online. Under the "About Housing Authority" section, you will see the line "The Housing Authority serves..." Those areas are the housing authority's jurisdiction. You can confirm this information with the housing authority.

Many housing authority websites display this information, weather it's on the home page, "About Us" page, or Section 8 program. If the jurisdiction cannot be found, search for the Annual Plan document. This document will state the jurisdiction, and may be found on any of the web pages mentioned above. If this information cannot be found online, contact the housing authority.

You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search for housing authority contact information.

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Emergency Housing FAQs

Does HUD help in emergency cases for housing?

No, HUD affordable housing programs are not emergency housing programs, and due to high demand, it is not rare to be on a waiting list for several years.

Generally, large metropolitan areas have long waiting lists, while lower populated areas have shorter waiting lists. There are housing authorities and apartment communities with very short waiting lists, but these opportunities are very rare, and applicants must still go through an approval process.

If you are in need of emergency housing, visit HUD's website here. Click on the state you are living in, and then click the "Find Homeless Resources" link under the "I Want to" section. Also, ome housing authorities participate in the HUD Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which assists persons who would be homeless without help from this program. Please visit HUD's HPRP website for more information.

If you need to find an apartment quickly, an affordable apartment community's waiting list is usually shorter than a Section 8 or Public Housing waiting list (if there is one at all). However, the waiting list may still be many months to years long, and applicants must go through an approval process. You can search for an affordable apartment in your area here. The pages for many communities listed on Affordable Housing Online include a way to directly contact the property for more information. You may call the toll free phone number provided on the page, or submit the online information request form. If these methods of contact are not available on the community’s page, visit the property for more information.

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Public Housing FAQs

Can I smoke in my apartment?

Under HUD regulations, smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes will not be allowed in apartments, public areas or within 25 feet of Public Housing buildings. At this time the smoking ban does not apply to e-cigarettes, nor to HUD properties that participate in housing programs other than Public Housing.

You may or may not be able to smoke in your affordable housing unit; depending on the policy of the housing authority, property management company, or landlord that manages your unit.

  • Public Housing residents may not smoke on premises as of July 31, 2018. More information about that ruling can be found here.
  • If you are a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher tenant, that policy is set by your landlord. The smoking policy should be identified on your lease.
  • For other housing programs, some housing agencies let its residents smoke, while others do not. The smoking policy should be identified on your lease for these programs, as well.

If a housing agency does have a no-smoking policy, there may be designated smoking areas outside. Also, it's important to note that no-smoking policies do not mean that residents who smoke will be evicted. But they will be not be allowed to smoke on premise.

Contact the housing authority, property management company, or landlord that manages your unit to confirm the smoking policy. You can use the search bar at the top of this page to search for housing authority and apartment community contact information.

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