Frequently Asked Affordable Housing Questions

Coronavirus FAQs

Can I be evicted if I can't pay rent because of coronavirus?

In many cases, no you cannot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has temporarily halted evictions for most Americans due to the coronavirus pandemic until June 30, 2021.

Called a moratorium on evictions, it means that qualified renters are be protected from getting evicted until the moratorium is lifted.

The CDC moratorium was most recently scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021, but was extended in March.

You can read more information on eviction policies during the coronavirus pandemic here.

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Emergency Housing FAQs

Are there HUD emergency housing assistance programs?

Yes, HUD provides funding for cities, counties, states, and Public Housing Agencies for emergency housing programs and resources. Most of these programs only offer temporary housing and assistance, but there are services for permanent housing as well.

It is important to note that HUD's rental assistance subsidy programs are not emergency housing programs. Participants of these programs (such as the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and Public Housing) usually have to wait on awaiting list for several months or years before receiving assistance. Generally, large metropolitan areas will have longer wait times than lower populated areas.

The specific services provided by every local agency varies. Program providers can explain which services are available.

HUD is currently funding the following programs that provide emergency housing services for homeless families and individuals:

HUD's explanation of the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program says:

"The Continuum of Care (CoC) Program is designed to promote communitywide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness; provide funding for efforts by nonprofit providers, and State and local governments to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families while minimizing the trauma and dislocation caused to homeless individuals, families, and communities by homelessness; promote access to and effect utilization of mainstream programs by homeless individuals and families; and optimize self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness."

Continuum of Care (CoC) Program providers use funds for multiple purposes, including:

  • Permanent Housing
    • "Community-based housing without a designated length of stay in which formerly homeless individuals and families live as independently as possible."* There are two CoC Permanent Housing programs:
      • Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
        • "Permanent housing with indefinite leasing or rental assistance paired with supportive services to assist homeless persons with a disability or families with an adult or child member with a disability achieve housing stability."*
      • Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)
        • "Housing search and relocation services and short- and medium-term rental assistance to move homeless persons and families (with or without a disability) as rapidly as possible into permanent housing."*
  • Transitional Housing
    • "Designed to provide homeless individuals and families with the interim stability and support to successfully move to and maintain permanent housing. Transitional housing may be used to cover the costs of up to 24 months of housing with accompanying supportive services."*
  • Supportive Services Only
    • Providers may "outreach to sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons and families, link clients with housing or other necessary services, and provide ongoing support."*
  • Homelessness Prevention
    • "The services under this component may include housing relocation and stabilization services as well as short- and medium-term rental assistance to prevent an individual or family from becoming homeless. Through this component, [participating agencies] may help individuals and families at-risk of homelessness to maintain their existing housing or transition to new permanent housing."*
  • Safe Havens
    • Provides temporary 24-hour shelter for persons who are homeless and have a serious mental illness. Safe Havens are different than standard shelters by encouraging residents to transition from life on the streets to permanent housing. No new Safe Haven projects are being funded, but existing projects can be renewed.
  • Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation SRO
    • Offered by Public Housing Agencies, properties were rehabilitated to offer Section 8 Rental Assistance to individual homeless persons. Tenants usually pay 30% of their adjusted income for rent. No new SRO projects are being funded, but they will continue to be renewed.

Further explanation of each of these components can be found here (*all quotes in the above CoC section are sourced from this page).

Where can I apply for Continuum of Care (CoC) services?

HUD has compiled a list of agencies that are receiving CoC funds. Contact information for Continuum of Care (CoC) agencies can be found here.

HUD's explanation of the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program, which was renamed in 2012, says:

"The change in the program’s name, from Emergency Shelter Grants to Emergency Solutions Grants, reflects the change in the program’s focus from addressing the needs of homeless people in emergency or transitional shelters to assisting people to quickly regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness."

Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program providers use funds for multiple purposes, including:

  • Rapid Rehousing
  • Street Outreach
  • Homelessness Prevention
  • Emergency Shelter

Where can I apply for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) services?

HUD has compiled a list of agencies that are receiving ESG funds. Contact information for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) agencies can be found here.

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) Program provides housing assistance and supportive services to persons living with HIV/AID, and their families.

Where can I apply for Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) services?

HUD has compiled a list of agencies that are receiving HOPWA funds. Contact information for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) agencies can be found here.

"This program supports a wide range of housing programs including rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, and other innovative housing models such as host homes," according to HUD. Rather than providing funds to agencies, HUD awards funds to a select number of communities each year.

As said by HUD, "These communities will develop a coordinated community plan to prevent and end youth homelessness and will fund projects that are consistent with this plan. They will also participate in a program evaluation to inform the federal effort to prevent and end youth homelessness going forward and will serve as leaders in the nation on the work to end homelessness among young people." This is a coordination between housing providers, welfare agencies, school districts, workforce organizations, and the juvenile justice system.

Where can I apply for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) services?

There is no information provided by HUD of the specific services provided in each community. However, HUD has created a map showing all communities that have received funding. This map can be found here, under the "YHDP Funding Awards" section, in the "Map of YHDP-Funded CoCs" link.

  • Local Emergency Assistance Programs

Your state may also have its own emergency assistance programs that helps with rent, utilities or other emergencies; and HUD has made that information easy to find. Information on local emergency housing assistance programs can be found here.

    Read All Emergency Housing Questions

    Section 8 FAQs

    What is Section 8?

    Section 8 is the common term for federal low-income rental assistance programs managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

    The term Section 8 is usually used to describe the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, which helps tenants pay rent based on their income, and pays participating landlords the remainder of the rent. "Section 8" can also refer to the Section 8 Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program, and the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) program. In both programs, the tenant typically pays 30% of their monthly income for housing costs.

    Section 8 may also refer to either the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program or the Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA) program.

    It gets its name from being Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937.

    Read All Section 8 Questions

    Public Housing FAQs

    Can I smoke in my apartment?

    Under HUD regulations, smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes are not 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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    Evictions FAQs

    What does eviction mean?

    An eviction is when a landlord who owns a property removes a tenant who is occupying that property. A formal eviction requires the tenant and landlord to go through a legal process.

    Evictions may occur if the tenant does not follow the rules agreed to in the landlord’s lease, and in some areas, landlords do not need a reason to evict. Tenants may be evicted for a number of reasons, including not paying rent, destruction of property, illegal activity, disrupting other tenants on the property, or violating rules of a lease.

    Read All Evictions Questions

    Homeownership FAQs

    How can homeownership benefit me?

    • Most of the time, a mortgage payment is lower than a rent payment.
    • The homeowner does not have to answer to a landlord or apartment manager.
    • If the mortgage is a fixed rate mortgage the monthly payments will never go up.
    • The homeowner will have more privacy than a renter and the homeowner can decorate their home in anyway they want.
    • A homeowner can have pets without paying a pet fee and can decide who lives in the home.
    • A homeowner has an investment that can be passed on to their children and if the homeowner buys a house in the right area, the worth of the home can quickly grow.
    • The homeowner will have a stable place to live that belongs to them (and the bank until it is paid off).

    With these benefits come added responsibilities. Read the Affordable Homeownership Guide

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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

    What is HUD?

    Updated April, 2023

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the head federal agency that manages affordable housing and community development programs in the United States. It was created as department of the president's Cabinet in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

    Marcia L. Fudge has served as the Secretary of HUD under the Biden Administration since 2021.

    The department serves many roles for both renters and homebuyers, including:

    Affordable Housing

    HUD administers affordable housing programs that help low-income households pay for rent. Through these programs, HUD may also offer supportive services, utility cost reimbursements, self-sufficiency planning, and job training for eligible households. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and Public Housing are HUD’s primary affordable housing programs.

    There is also housing for populations with special needs. These programs include the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities, and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) programs. HUD also administers grants to help persons experiencing homelessness, including shelters, transitional housing, and services.

    Community Development

    HUD provides funding to states, counties, and cities for public infrastructure and economic development.

    Some of these programs can be used to build or rehabilitate affordable housing including the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME). Through the Office of Public and Indian Housing, HUD provides block grants to tribes for housing and community development through the Indian Housing Block Grant and Indian Community Development Block Grant programs.

    Affordable Homeownership

    HUD assists homebuyers through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

    FHA-insured mortgages have helped millions of first-time homebuyers purchase homes. HUD also oversees lead paint and hazard removal programs, and standards for manufactured housing.

    Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

    HUD is charged with enforcing the Fair Housing Act to address housing discrimination through the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

    The agency also administers funds to rebuild communities after natural disasters through the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief program.

    For more information about HUD, visit the department's website.

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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 (jurisdiction)?

    The area the housing authority serves is commonly known as the jurisdiction.

    The housing authority's jurisdiction can usually be found 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, whether 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.

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