Frequently Asked Housing Authority Questions

What does an income limit mean?

The income limit for an affordable housing program is the maximum amount of income a household can earn to qualify to receive assistance.

The specific figure is based on the city or county's Area Median Income (AMI), and is adjusted depending on how many persons live in the household (including children). Income qualification is generally separated into three main tiers: Low Income (80% AMI), Very Low Income (50% AMI), and Extremely Low Income (30% AMI). However, the number of tiers used and percentage of AMI used for qualification varies by each housing program. The required income limits for a waiting list may be found online on a public notice for a waiting list opening, or the housing authority or apartment community's website. If income limit information cannot be found, contact the appropriate housing authority or apartment community. Scroll up to the search bar on the top of this page to find contact information.

A household's income is calculated by its gross income, which is the total income received before making subtractions for taxes and other deductions. When applying for any HUD affordable housing program, there are certain means of income that do not have to be reported. Required income inclusions and exclusions for HUD programs can be found here.


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.


How long are affordable housing waiting lists?

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.

Generally, large metropolitan areas have long waiting lists, while lower populated areas have shorter waiting lists. However, an apartment community's waiting list is usually shorter than a Section 8 or Public Housing waiting list. There may also be an instance in which there is no waiting list, but those opportunities are rare, and applicants must still go through an approval process.

Contact the housing authority or apartment community you applied through to find out its policy on how to find out your status on its waiting list. The method of how to find out your status varies by each office. Please keep in mind that some offices are not able to provide your specific position on the waiting list, but can confirm if you are currently on the waiting list.

If the office cannot state your specific position on the waiting list, the representative may be able to confirm the date they are currently pulling applications from. For example, if you applied in January 2016, and the office is pulling applicants who applied in January 2013, you likely still have a long wait for assistance.

If you applied through a housing authority, and the office cannot provide information on your current wait time, ask how you can access its Annual Plan. This document, which is updated yearly, may have information about the current number of households on the waiting list, and the office's annual turnover rate. You can use simple math to estimate the length of the waiting list based on these numbers. For example, if there are 1,000 households on the waiting list, and the annual turnover rate is 200 households, calculate (1,000 ÷ 200), which is 5. It would take that office about five years to serve all households on that waiting list. Unfortunately, not all housing authorities provide both pieces of information on their Annual Plan.

If there are any further questions about the specific waiting list you would like to apply to, please contact the appropriate housing authority or apartment community.

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


What is my status on the waiting list?

The best way to check your status on a waiting list is to contact the housing authority or apartment community you applied to. The method of how to find out your status varies by each office. Some offices are not able to provide your specific position on the waiting list, but can confirm if you are currently on the waiting list.

If the office cannot state your specific position on the waiting list, the representative may be able to confirm the date they are currently pulling applications from. For example, if you applied in January 2016, and the office is pulling applicants who applied in January 2013, you likely still have a long wait for assistance.

If you applied through a housing authority, and the office cannot provide information on your current wait time, ask how you can access its Annual Plan. This document, which is updated yearly, may have information about the current number of households on the waiting list, and the office's annual turnover rate. You can use simple math to estimate the length of the waiting list based on these numbers. For example, if there are 1,000 households on the waiting list, and the annual turnover rate is 200 households, calculate (1,000 ÷ 200), which is 5. It would take that office about five years to serve all households on that waiting list. Unfortunately, not all housing authorities provide both pieces of information on their Annual Plan.

It is important to update the housing authority or apartment community you applied to immediately with any changes to your application (income, household members, contact information, etc...). Not doing so may result in the termination of your application. When checking your waiting list status, it does not hurt to make sure your other information is up to date as well.


Why is the housing authority giving Section 8 vouchers when there are no rentals available, and if there are, they don't take Section 8?

While it is can be difficult for Section 8 voucher holders to find a unit, there are properties and landlords out there that accept Section 8 Vouchers. You can use our website to make your search easier.

Please read our guide on where you can use your voucher, along with step-by-step instructions on how to use our website to find a unit that will accept your voucher.

Also, the housing authority you applied through may have information on landlords who accept vouchers. Contact the housing authority office for more information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


What are the requirements to be a Section 8 landlord? Are housing quality standards uniform throughout the country?

This page on HUD's website is a good place to start to learn about being a landlord. The housing quality standards for the Section 8 program are uniform across the country however, since they are interpreted and enforced by thousands of different housing authorities and inspectors, there are large discrepancies in standards from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. To view HUD's standard quality standards, go here. You should be prepared for different interpretation by different housing authorities and even different inspectors within the same housing authority.


What are the regulations about having a Moving to Work voucher?

The Moving to Work voucher program is an ongoing HUD demonstration program that gives an enormous amount of policy flexibility to the 35 housing authorities across the country that are "testing" out the program.

The intent of the demonstration program is to find innovative ways to use housing assistance in a way that will increase financial sustainability for families with children while allowing the program to assist more people with the same level of funding.

Because it's a demonstration program, the "regulations" are not standardized and are set by each individual housing authority that's testing the program. They are still governed by other Federal laws and regulations like the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act and other regulations but the specific rules around how the housing voucher program is carried out is set by each housing agency.

You can imagine, given the programs name, there will be a requirement that you are actively working, seeking work or going through a training program that will better prepare you for work.

But to find out what the "regulations" are for a MTW voucher in your city (if the MTW demo program is available there), you must contact your local housing authority. You can search our website for housing authority contact information here.


My family and I live in Section 8, but I have to move. Can we continue to receive Section 8 assistance in both places?

You may not use a Section 8 voucher to receive rental assistance in two different units at the same time.

If you are the head of household, you may port your voucher to the area you will be moving to, as long as you have lived in your unit for one year, or were a resident when applying to the Section 8 waiting list. The housing authority that covers the area you are moving to must be currently absorbing vouchers, so contact that office for more information. If the housing authority is not absorbing, you may have to port to a different housing authority that covers a nearby area. Contact the housing authority that manages your voucher for more information. However, if you do port, your family would no longer receive rental assistance in the unit you are currently living in.

If you are not the head of household, you may move out of the unit, but you cannot use your voucher to cover your new unit. You may apply to the Section 8 waiting list through the housing authority that covers the area you are moving to, but the waiting list must be open, and you will be waiting months or years to receive the voucher.

Contact the housing authority that manages your voucher for more information. You can search our website for housing authority contact information here.


Is a resident of the housing authority allowed to serve on its board of directors?

Yes, in fact, having at least one resident on the housing authority's board is required by law, with a few exceptions.


According to CFR 24, Subtitle B, Chapter IX, Part 964, Subpart E; there are a few scenarios in which a housing authority is not required to have a resident on its board of directors (sometime also referred to as the board of commissioners):

  • If the housing authority is located in a state that requires the members of its board to work full time with salary pay.
  • If the housing authority does not have a governing board.
A housing authority may also be exempt from this requirement if it has less than 300 Public Housing units, but only if it meets one of the following conditions:

  1. The housing authority has published a notice to the resident advisory board to inform residents of the opportunity, and there was no response by a resident in 30 days. This notice must be published yearly.
  2. The housing authority only offers the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, and not the Public Housing program.


The housing authority is doing a Section 8 briefing, but the waiting list is closed. What does "briefing" mean?

It is likely that the housing authority is scheduling eligibility appointments with persons on the waiting list. It is also possible that the office hosting an event providing information on how to apply to the waiting list, or providing Section 8 tenants with information about housing authority policy.


Contact the housing authority you are referring to for more information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


When inspecting the house, what do the inspectors have a right to check? Do they have a right to look in your cupboards, refrigerators or even your stove or oven? Or is that an invasion of privacy?

When an inspector comes to assess your unit, they are making sure the house is in good physical condition. Inspectors look at the structure of the unit, whether there is mold or other contaminants, and if there are insects or other animals invading the unit. What an inspector checks has to be related to these factors. They will not open your purse, cupboards, or other personal items, unless it has something to do with the above factors.

Contact the housing authority that manages your unit for further clarification on what may or may not be inspected. You can search our website for housing authority contact information.


When I receive a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, can I terminate it for a year if I have to move temporarily?

No, when you receive a voucher, you have a specific amount of time to use that voucher before it is terminated.


You may be able to receive a short extension of the termination date by contacting the housing authority that gave you the voucher, but it would not be extended for a year.


If I find housing before I get my Section 8 voucher, can I get approved sooner?

No. Finding a unit before receiving your voucher does not have any influence on when you receive your voucher. Once being placed on the waiting list, you must wait until your name reaches the top.


It is also not recommended to search for a unit before your name reaches the top of the waiting list. It may take months or years to get your voucher, and landlords would probably not hold the unit for you.

Generally, the only way to raise your spot on the waiting list is if you qualify for a preference identified by the housing office you applied through. Contact the office you applied through for more information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.