Frequently Asked Waiting Lists Questions

What has to be included in my household income?


Income Inclusions [CFR 24, Subtitle A, Part 5, Subpart F §5.609(b)]:

  1. The full amount, before any payroll deductions, of wages and salaries, overtime pay, commissions, fees, tips and bonuses, and other compensation for personal services;
  2. The net income from the operation of a business or profession. Expenditures for business expansion or amortization of capital indebtedness shall not be used as deductions in determining net income. An allowance for depreciation of assets used in a business or profession may be deducted, based on straight line depreciation, as provided in Internal Revenue Service regulations. Any withdrawal of cash or assets from the operation of a business or profession will be included in income, except to the extent the withdrawal is reimbursement of cash or assets invested in the operation by the family;
  3. Interest, dividends, and other net income of any kind from real or personal property. Expenditures for amortization of capital indebtedness shall not be used as deductions in determining net income. An allowance for depreciation is permitted only as authorized in paragraph (b)(2) of this section. Any withdrawal of cash or assets from an investment will be included in income, except to the extent the withdrawal is reimbursement of cash or assets invested by the family. Where the family has net family assets in excess of $5,000, annual income shall include the greater of the actual income derived from all net family assets or a percentage of the value of such assets based on the current passbook savings rate, as determined by HUD;
  4. The full amount of periodic amounts received from Social Security, annuities, insurance policies, retirement funds, pensions, disability or death benefits, and other similar types of periodic receipts, including a lump-sum amount or prospective monthly amounts for the delayed start of a periodic amount (except as provided in paragraph (c)(14) of this section);
  5. Payments in lieu of earnings, such as unemployment and disability compensation, worker's compensation and severance pay (except as provided in paragraph (c)(3) of this section);
  6. Welfare assistance payments. (i) Welfare assistance payments made under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are included in annual income only to the extent such payments:
    (A) Qualify as assistance under the TANF program definition at 45 CFR 260.31; and;
    (B) Are not otherwise excluded under paragraph (c) of this section.
    (ii) If the welfare assistance payment includes an amount specifically designated for shelter and utilities that is subject to adjustment by the welfare assistance agency in accordance with the actual cost of shelter and utilities, the amount of welfare assistance income to be included as income shall consist of:
    (A) The amount of the allowance or grant exclusive of the amount specifically designated for shelter or utilities; plus
    (B) The maximum amount that the welfare assistance agency could in fact allow the family for shelter and utilities. If the family's welfare assistance is ratably reduced from the standard of need by applying a percentage, the amount calculated under this paragraph shall be the amount resulting from one application of the percentage.
  7. Periodic and determinable allowances, such as alimony and child support payments, and regular contributions or gifts received from organizations or from persons not residing in the dwelling;
  8. All regular pay, special pay and allowances of a member of the Armed Forces (except as provided in paragraph (c)(7) of this section).
  9. For section 8 programs only and as provided in 24 CFR 5.612, any financial assistance, in excess of amounts received for tuition and any other required fees and charges, that an individual receives under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001 et seq.), from private sources, or from an institution of higher education (as defined under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1002)), shall be considered income to that individual, except that financial assistance described in this paragraph is not considered annual income for persons over the age of 23 with dependent children. For purposes of this paragraph, "financial assistance" does not include loan proceeds for the purpose of determining income.
Income Exclusions [CFR 24, Subtitle A, Part 5, Subpart F §5.609(c)]:

  1. Income from employment of children (including foster children) under the age of 18 years;
  2. Payments received for the care of foster children or foster adults (usually persons with disabilities, unrelated to the tenant family, who are unable to live alone);
  3. Lump-sum additions to family assets, such as inheritances, insurance payments (including payments under health and accident insurance and worker's compensation), capital gains and settlement for personal or property losses (except as provided in paragraph (b)(5) of this section);
  4. Amounts received by the family that are specifically for, or in reimbursement of, the cost of medical expenses for any family member;
  5. Income of a live-in aide, as defined in §5.403;
  6. Subject to paragraph (b)(9) of this section, the full amount of student financial assistance paid directly to the student or to the educational institution;
  7. The special pay to a family member serving in the Armed Forces who is exposed to hostile fire;
  8. (i) Amounts received under training programs funded by HUD;
    (ii) Amounts received by a person with a disability that are disregarded for a limited time for purposes of Supplemental Security Income eligibility and benefits because they are set aside for use under a Plan to Attain Self-Sufficiency (PASS);
    (iii) Amounts received by a participant in other publicly assisted programs which are specifically for or in reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses incurred (special equipment, clothing, transportation, child care, etc.) and which are made solely to allow participation in a specific program;
    (iv) Amounts received under a resident service stipend. A resident service stipend is a modest amount (not to exceed $200 per month) received by a resident for performing a service for the PHA or owner, on a part-time basis, that enhances the quality of life in the development. Such services may include, but are not limited to, fire patrol, hall monitoring, lawn maintenance, resident initiatives coordination, and serving as a member of the PHA's governing board. No resident may receive more than one such stipend during the same period of time;
    (v) Incremental earnings and benefits resulting to any family member from participation in qualifying State or local employment training programs (including training programs not affiliated with a local government) and training of a family member as resident management staff. Amounts excluded by this provision must be received under employment training programs with clearly defined goals and objectives, and are excluded only for the period during which the family member participates in the employment training program;
  9. Temporary, nonrecurring or sporadic income (including gifts);
  10. Reparation payments paid by a foreign government pursuant to claims filed under the laws of that government by persons who were persecuted during the Nazi era;
  11. Earnings in excess of $480 for each full-time student 18 years old or older (excluding the head of household and spouse);
  12. Adoption assistance payments in excess of $480 per adopted child;
  13. [Reserved]
  14. Deferred periodic amounts from supplemental security income and Social Security benefits that are received in a lump sum amount or in prospective monthly amounts, or any deferred Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits that are received in a lump sum amount or in prospective monthly amounts.
  15. Amounts received by the family in the form of refunds or rebates under State or local law for property taxes paid on the dwelling unit;
  16. Amounts paid by a State agency to a family with a member who has a developmental disability and is living at home to offset the cost of services and equipment needed to keep the developmentally disabled family member at home; or
  17. Amounts specifically excluded by any other Federal statute from consideration as income for purposes of determining eligibility or benefits under a category of assistance programs that includes assistance under any program to which the exclusions set forth in 24 CFR 5.609(c) apply. A notice will be published in the Federal Register and distributed to PHAs and housing owners identifying the benefits that qualify for this exclusion. Updates will be published and distributed when necessary.
For more information about income inclusions and exclusions, contact the housing office you apply through. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


Since Section 8 vouchers are so difficult to get, is there a place to find other housing programs that set rent based on your income?

Yes, there are likely other programs available other than Section 8 and Public Housing. Housing authorities often provide additional housing programs. You can also 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.


The housing office I applied through told me I didn't qualify to receive assistance, and I don't know why. What could have made me ineligible?

Any housing office that provides a HUD program is legally required to explain to you why you did not qualify. Due to the high demand of affordable housing, and comparatively low supply, it is possible that you did qualify, but were not among the applicants that were placed on the waiting list. For example, 20,000+ people may apply to a waiting list opening that is placing 1,000 applicants on that waiting list.


Contact the housing office you applied through to find out why you did not qualify. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


Who qualifies for affordable housing assistance?

The most important qualifier is income. For most housing programs, the general qualification requires that the household makes less than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) of that area to qualify.

To find an estimate of the AMI for your area of interest, you can search our website for your area and scroll down to our chart of income limits.

There are other significant qualifiers such as housing and criminal history. Past evictions and owing money to a housing authority may make it difficult to qualify. Having a criminal record may make it difficult for a person to receive housing, but it does not automatically disqualify them. Generally, offices are more lenient to persons with an arrest record, but persons with a conviction may find greater difficulty in qualifying. Furthermore, felons face much greater difficulty in qualifying, especially if it was a violence or drug related sentence. 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. Sex offenders will not qualify for affordable housing.

The Section 8 and Public Housing programs do not issue a credit check, but Section 8 landlords likely will, as well as individual affordable housing properties.

Even if you are placed on a waiting list, it is not a guarantee that you qualify for housing. Many housing offices do not determine eligibility until your name reaches the top of the waiting list.

Contact the housing office you apply through for more information about the qualification process. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


Is there any way I can receive priority placement on a waiting list?

Yes. These criteria are referred to by HUD and Public Housing Authorities as preferences.

There are many preferences that are permitted and employed in both Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher waiting list management.

Common preferences include local residency (applicants who reside in or have full time employment in the jurisdiction of the housing authority), persons with disabilities, seniors, veterans, homeless persons, victims of domestic violence, working families, victims of natural disaster/government action and families with children. There may also be other preferences for a waiting list not identified above.

The two most common (usually of equal weight) preferences are for seniors and persons with disabilities. The third most common preference is local residency.

The local residency preference is an interesting one. It is illegal for housing authorities to restrict eligibility based on a potential clients current location, save for a very rare circumstance that must be approved by HUD. Generally, if a resident of Washington DC wants to apply to a housing waiting list in northern Virginia, they may do so. However, if that PHA in Northern Virginia wishes to prioritize serving current residents over "out of towners," they may establish a local residency preference.

Any new applicants to the waiting list are ranked according to their preferences. Usually, points are allocated to various preferences and applicants are ranked by points. It is possible and common, for applicants to have more than one preference, ranking them even higher. The effect of this is usually anyone without a preference sits at the bottom of the list and never gets served since the programs are already oversubscribed.

A PHA's preferences must be in accordance with the federal regulations for each program and be published in the PHA's annual and administrative plans.


Can I apply to multiple waiting lists?

Yes, you can apply to multiple waiting lists.

You can apply apply anywhere in the country, and there is no limit on how many waiting lists or housing programs you can apply to. However, duplicate applications for the same waiting list may be terminated.

It is important to keep a record of all waiting lists you apply to. Not only is it good for your own general knowledge, but also if you need to update application information or find out your waiting list status. If the housing office gives you a confirmation number, keep that information as well.


Do I have to update my application information if there is a change?

Yes, it is the applicant's responsibility to make sure the housing authority or apartment community they applied to has the household's most current information.

If any application information changes, such as income, contact information and household members, you must update this information immediately. This is important not only for eligibility, but also to make sure you receive any notices sent to you.

Usually once a year, the housing authority or apartment community will send a notice to all persons on the waiting list, asking them if they would like to stay on the list. This is called a purge notice. Anyone who responds no, or does not respond to the notice will be terminated from the waiting list. So, if your contact information is out of date, you will not receive the purge notice, and you would be taken off the list because you didn't respond.

If it has been more than one year since you have received a notice about a waiting list you are on, contact the housing office to make sure you are still on the list. You can find more information on how to check your status on a waiting list here.


How do I submit the application after I have filled it out?

Depending on the housing office you apply to, you may be required to submit the application online, by mail, email, fax, or drop it off at the office. Applications or application information packets tend to state this information.

If information on how to submit the application is not available, contact the housing office for assistance. You can use the search bar at the top of this page to search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


How long after submitting my application will I know about my status on the waiting list?

After submitting your application, there are a number of factors that determine when you will know about your status on the waiting list. Each housing authority and apartment community operates differently, and the time frame to process applications varies.

Generally, it could take a couple of weeks to a couple of months to process applications. This mainly depends on how many people apply, how many staffers the office has available to process applications, and the process used to submit applications (online applications tend to be processed faster than paper applications).

Keep an eye out, as the date your waiting list status would be available may be available on the public notice, website, or application. If this information is not published, contact the office you apply to for assistance.

It's important to know this date, because some housing offices do not contact persons who were not placed on the waiting list. So, if that date comes and passes, and you were not contacted, you were not placed on the waiting list.


What does it mean if a waiting list has preferences?

If a waiting list has preferences, it means that priority placement is given to applicants who qualify for a specific preference category (such as elderly, disabled, or homeless). Applicants who do not qualify for the listed preferences will have a longer wait to receive assistance than those who do qualify. Generally, the head of household, co-head, or spouse must qualify for a preference for it to be applied; and official documentation must be submitted to prove the household qualifies.

Not all waiting lists have preferences, and the specific preferences associated with a waiting list vary. The purpose of preferences is to assist demographics in the area who are in great need of housing assistance. For example, if an area has a large population of homeless persons, a waiting list in that area may have a preference for homeless applicants.

Usually, preferences are weighted, meaning that each preference is given a point value, and the total number of preferences points an applicant has determines their position on the waiting list. Applicants who do not qualify for any preferences are placed on the waiting list below all applicants who qualify for at least one preference. Housing offices are given great leeway in defining its specific preference requirements, and not all preferences are the same across the board. Always confirm the specific preference requirements with the housing office.

These are the most common preferences that may be found on an application, along with a definition of what the preference usually requires:

  • Elderly- 62 years or older.
  • Disabled-
    • Receive benefits for their disability as defined by 42 U.S.C. 423; and has a long-term physical, mental or emotional impairment that substantially hinders their ability to live independently; and the disability is of such a nature that the ability to live independently could be improved by more suitable housing conditions.
    • Or, has a developmental disability as defined by 42 U.S.C. 6001; including persons who have the disease or conditions of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS); but not including persons whose disability is based solely on drug or alcohol dependence; and the person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • Live/Work Locally- Live, work, or have been hired to work within the housing authority's jurisdiction, or the county it is located in. Offices have leeway in defining this specific preference, but in all instances, those who have been hired to work must be treated the same as those who currently work. The preference may only be for those who live locally, work locally, or both.
  • Veteran- Honorably discharged from any branch of the United States Armed Forces.
  • Employed- Employed for a specific number of hours, as defined by the housing office (usually at least 20-30 hours per week). This preference is also given to households whose head of household or spouse is elderly is disabled.
  • Job Training/Education- Currently enrolled in a job training or education program.
  • Homeless- Offices have leeway in defining this preference, and the specific definition tends to vary greatly by each housing office. Some offices may require applicants to be currently living in a shelter, some do not consider persons who are living with friends or family homeless, and others have much lighter requirements. Because of this flexibility, contact the office you apply through to confirm the definition of the Homeless preference.
  • Involuntarily Displaced by Natural Disaster- Household was forced to move from their home as a result of a federally declared natural disaster such as a fire or flood.
  • Involuntarily Displaced by Government Action- Household was forced to move from their home as a result of a government action. This may include federal, state, or local government action by code enforcement, or if a housing authority cuts assistance to a household due to lack of funding.
  • Victim of Domestic Violence- Offices have leeway in defining this preference, and the specific definition tends to vary greatly by each housing office. Some may require legal documentation, or that the applicant currently lives in a shelter specifically for victims of domestic violence. The preference may also appear as "Displaced by Domestic Violence." Because of this flexibility, contact the office you apply through to confirm the definition of the Victim of Domestic Violence preference.
  • Families with Children- The household has at least one minor child younger than 18 years old.
  • Live in Substandard Housing- Examples of substandard housing may include a dilapidated structure, no operable indoor plumbing, inadequate or unsafe electrical foundation, inadequate or unsafe source of heat, no kitchen, and declared unfit for habitation by government agency.
  • Near Elderly- 50-61 years old. Offices have leeway in defining the qualifying age for this preference, and the specific age requirement tends to vary greatly by each housing office. Because of this flexibility, contact the office you apply through to confirm the age requirement of the Near Elderly preference.
  • Rent Burdened- Household pays more than 30% of its income on rent.
  • Extremely Low-Income Household- The household's income is at or below 30% of that area's Area Median Income (AMI).
  • Other- A housing office may have additional preferences. If so, it is usually connected to a locally-administered assistance program. Contact the houseing office you apply to, and ask to confirm the definition of other preferences.

Preferences are not the only factor in determining a household's position on the waiting list. After preference points are sorted, applicants are placed on the waiting list either by random lottery, or date and time the application is received by the office.

Here are some examples of how an application may be sorted by preferences:

Example 1- A waiting list gives 5 points to elderly applicants, 3 points to veterans, 1 point to local applicants, and places applicants on the waiting list by date and time:

  1. Applicant A is elderly and local, and submitted their application on January 1st at 12:00 pm.
  2. Applicant B is a veteran, and submitted their application on January 1st at 11:00 am.

Applicant A would receive 6 points, and Applicant B would receive 3 points. Even though Applicant B submitted their application first, Applicant A would be placed in a higher tier on the waiting list because they have more preference points.

Example 2- A waiting list gives 5 points to elderly applicants, 3 points to veterans, 1 point to local applicants, and places applicants on the waiting list by date and time:

  1. Applicant A is elderly and local, and submitted their application on January 1st at 12:00 pm.
  2. Applicant B is elderly and local, and submitted their application on January 1st at 11:00 am.

Applicant A and B would both receive 6 points. Both would be placed on the same tier, but because Applicant B submitted their application first, they would be placed higher on the waiting list than Applicant A.

Example 3- A waiting list gives 5 points to elderly applicants, 3 points to veterans, 1 point to local applicants, and places applicants on the waiting list by random lottery:

  1. Applicant A is elderly and local, and submitted their application on January 1st at 12:00 pm.
  2. Applicant B is elderly and local, and submitted their application on January 1st at 11:00 am.

Applicant A and B would both receive 6 points. Waiting list selection is by lottery, so it does not matter when either application was submitted. Both applicants would be placed on the same tier, but because they both have the same number of preference points, each applicant has an equal chance of being placed higher on the waiting list than the other.

Example 4- A waiting list gives 5 points to elderly applicants, 3 points to veterans, 1 point to local applicants, and places applicants on the waiting list by random lottery:

  1. Applicant A is elderly and local, and submitted their application on January 1st at 12:00 pm.
  2. Applicant B is elderly and local, and submitted their application on January 1st at 11:00 am.
  3. Applicant C is a veteran, and submitted their application on January 1st at 10:00 am.

Applicant A and B would both receive 6 points. Applicant C would receive 3 points. Waiting list selection is by lottery, so it does not matter when either application was submitted. Applicants A and B would be placed on a higher tier than Applicant C. Because Applicants A and B both have the same number of preference points, each applicant has an equal chance of being placed on the waiting list higher than the other. Because Applicant C has fewer preference points, they will be placed on the waiting list on a lower tier than Applicants A and B.

Example 5- A waiting list gives 5 points to elderly applicants, 3 points to veterans, 1 point to local applicants, and places applicants on the waiting list by random lottery:

  1. Applicant A is elderly and local, and submitted their application on January 1st at 12:00 pm.
  2. Applicant B does not qualify for any preferences, and submitted their application on January 1st at 11:00 am.

Applicant A would receive 6 points, and Applicant B would receive 0 points. Waiting list selection is by lottery, so it does not matter when either application was submitted. Even though Applicant B submitted their application first, and Applicant A would be placed on a higher tier because of their preference points.

Contact the housing office you apply through for more information about preferences. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


What Happens After Applying?

Step 1: Wait for the housing office to process applications.

Once your application has been submitted, it generally takes between a couple of weeks and a couple of months for offices to process applications. This depends on the resources available to review applications. Usually, online applications are processed more quickly than paper applications. The application or public notice about the waiting list opening may have information on when waiting list status will be available, and how to find out your status.

Step 2: Confirm your waiting list status.

Usually, the housing provider will confirm waiting list placement by mailing letters to applicants, or allowing applicants to log in to an online portal. Some agencies that mail letters to applicants will only notify those who have been placed on the waiting list. Applicants that do not receive a letter by the given date were not placed on the waiting list.

Applicants will be placed on the waiting list either by date and time the application is received by the housing provider, or by random lottery.

If placed on the waiting list, keep a record of the waiting list you are on, along with any other important information (such as your log in credentials, confirmation number [if one was given], or your position on the waiting list). Without this documentation, it is easy to lose track of offices you have applied through.

There could be a number of reasons why an applicant was not placed on the waiting list. Many applicants get rejected because of the high demand for housing assistance, even though they are eligible for the program. For example, if 1,000 applicants are being placed on the waiting list, and 2,500 qualified applicants apply, 1,500 of those applicants will not be placed on the waiting list simply because there are not enough spots available. If you were not placed on a federal housing waiting list, the housing provider is required to provide the reason why, along with information about requesting an informal review.

Step 3: Estimate your wait time.

Once you are on a waiting list, your wait time varies greatly depending on the waiting list you are on. Because of the high demand of affordable housing, and comparatively low supply, it is not rare to be on a waiting list for several months or years. Generally, large metropolitan areas have long waiting lists, while lower populated areas have shorter waiting lists. An apartment community's waiting list is usually shorter than a Section 8 or Public Housing waiting list.

Contact the housing provider you applied with to find out the current length of the waiting list. If this information is not available, and you applied with a Public Housing Agency, 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 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. However, not all housing authorities provide both pieces of information on their Annual Plan. This calculation does not take factors into consideration such as annual waiting list purges and adjusted turnover rates, so it should be used as a rough estimate.

Step 4: Stay in contact with the housing provider.

Find out how you can check your waiting list status. Usually, this will either be done online, by phone, or at the intake office. Sometimes your specific position on the waiting list is not available, but you can at least confirm if you are still on the waiting list.

If any of your application information changes (such as contact information, income, and household members), contact the housing provider immediately. In the case that the provider sends a you a notice about the waiting list that does not get returned, or if application information is out of date, your application may be terminated from the waiting list. Contact the provider you applied with to find out how to officially update application information.

Also make sure to reply immediately to notices sent to you that require a response. Housing providers occasionally send notices to all persons on the waiting list, asking if they would like to remain on the waiting list. Applicants who do not respond within the given time frame will be terminated from the waiting list. This is known as purging, and is done to process applicants as efficiently as possible. Follow the specific instructions on the notice, or your application may be terminated.

Step 5: Attend final in-person eligibility interview.

Once you reach the top of the waiting list, the office will require a final, in-person eligibility interview. You must respond to this notice to schedule your appointment. The housing provider will require either all household members, all adult household members, or only the applicant to be present. The in-person interview is required, and you must attend at the scheduled date and time, so if you apply for a waiting list not close to your home, plan accordingly.


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.


Will child and transportation expenses be deducted when calculating our contribution to rent?

Different programs have different ways they handle this. Usually, transportation expenses may not be deducted when calculating the tenant rent payment. In some programs (like Section 8), child care expenses and medical expenses can be deducted to a certain extent.

You will need to verify with each housing office how this gets calculated.



The need for affordable housing is a serious concern to many. Why are "lotteries" used to decide who gets help?

You're right. The need for affordable housing is overwhelming. The need is so large, that Federal affordable funding programs for affordable housing fall well short of being capable of helping everyone.


When it comes to Section 8 waiting lists, they are usually many years long, meaning that it takes years to reach the bottom of the list. This is why these lists are often closed and not accepting new applicants.

Many housing authorities conduct "lotteries" to choose who gets added to the list instead of adding thousands of people that will never be reached. The housing authority will, for example, choose to add 500 people to a waiting list because they estimate it would take another 3 years to reach those 500 people. When they open the waiting list, they may get 5,000 applicants. If they added all of them, that 30 years worth of applicants. Obviously, that isn't feasible.

So, the lottery allows them to be fair by choosing randomly 500 from the total applicant base but still have a waiting list that is manageable.

It is unfortunate that housing authorities have to do it this way, but until more Federal funding is available, there would be no way to administer the Section 8 program otherwise.


If your name comes up on a waiting list, but you still owe money to a landlord, do you lose your spot?

You will not lose your spot on the Section 8 waiting list due to a debt, unless that debt is to a housing authority. Housing authorities don't usually require a credit check (though they do require a criminal background check) for the Housing Choice Voucher program.

However, you should make sure that your payment agreement with the landlord is well documented on paper. Make sure to save all of your payment receipts. If there is a public record of that debt to a landlord, you should ask them to remove the record when you pay it in full.


Please confirm this information with your the housing authority you applied through. To find contact information, search our website for your area.


Will I lose my chance at getting rental assistance if my name comes up on the waiting list before my current lease ends?

No, if your name reaches the top of the waiting list while still under contract of your current lease, you will not lose your rental assistance.

However, if you are scheduled to move into your affordable unit before your current lease ends, you must negotiate with your landlord to cancel the lease early.

Contact your the housing office you applied through for more information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


My income will be lower after I move. Would I apply using my current income, or the income I will receive after moving?

Even if you are expecting an income change in the future, you must report the total gross income you are currently receiving.


If placed onto a waiting list, you must report any changes to your pre-application, such as contact and income information. This helps the office determine eligibility once your name reaches the top of the list.

So, once your income changes, you must immediately report that change to the housing office you applied through. Contact the office you applied through to find out how to update application information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


What should my credit score be in order to receive housing?

Your credit score will not have an affect on your eligibility to receive Section 8 or Public Housing assistance. However, once you receive a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, prospective landlords will likely require a credit score as part of your background check. Also, other affordable housing programs, such as Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties, will likely have a credit score as a part of the approval process.

To obtain a credit report, you are able to get a credit report by multiple credit report agencies, but there are three agencies that are the largest and most widely-used. These agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Your credit score will likely differ between agencies, but your score should be similar between these three.

Some factors of what determines your credit score include bill payment history and amount of money owed. For further information about what determines your credit score, visit this FTC page.

Everyone is eligible for a free credit report once a year by each of the three agencies noted above. Do not fall for scams and other unethical companies that make you pay for your credit score if you have not requested one that year.

Credit scores are generally between a scale of 350-850. According to sources online, including myFico.com, the national average credit score is 690, and any score in the range of mid-600s and higher is considered "good credit."

Important note: "Good credit" does not determine eligibility to live in a unit. It is up to the landlord's or property manager's discretion to reject or accept your credit score. There is no set qualifier.

There are ways to build your credit score if your reported number is low. Information on how to improve your credit score can be found on this FTC page.


If you currently have no income whatsoever, will places accept your application?

Yes. Simply put, the most important qualifier is income. Generally, applicants must make less than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for that area to qualify. Having no income at all falls under that category.

Also, there are many factors that determine your income, which include welfare and Social Security benefits. So, even if you don't receive a paycheck from a job, you may still receive income that is applicable for affordable housing program. Please view this HUD document that explains what specific sources of income are included and excluded when declaring your income on an application.

You can search our website for your area of interest here, and scroll down to the AMI chart for that area. However, please confirm income qualifications with the housing authority or apartment community you are interested in applying through, as affordable housing offices set their own income limits.


If your income increases, are you still eligible for affordable housing?

That depends on if your income still qualifies for the income limit. If it is still under the limit, then yes, you are still eligible.

Applicants are required to keep application information up to date, and if there are any changes, such as income or contact information, it must be reported to the housing authority. It is equally important to keep contact information up to date. If you are on a waiting list, and a housing office send a notice that does not get a response, your application may be terminated.

Contact the housing office you apply through to find out both its income limit, and its policy on how to update application information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


Will slow rent payments or an eviction keep me from getting accepted?

Having an eviction on your record may make it difficult to qualify for housing. Generally, it depends on the reason the household was evicted. Contact the office you are interested in applying through for more information.

If you owe money to to any housing authority, you will have to settle that debt to be eligible for assistance again. If that is the case, you may want to contact the housing authority you owe money to so you can set up a payment plan.

As each housing office operates differently contact the office you apply through for more information. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


If I apply to a waiting list in another state, will they require that I come in for an interview before receiving rental assistance?

Usually, housing offices won't require an in-person interview until your name reaches the top of the waiting list. However, some offices may require an interview immediately upon submitting your application, or schedule an interview at a later date.


Housing office policies also differ on who is required to attend the interview. Some require all household members to be present, while others only ask for either all adult (18+) household members, or just the applicant to attend the interview.

If you apply to a waiting list in an area outside of your current location, you should plan to travel to that location at some point before receiving rental assistance.

Contact the housing office you apply through to find out its policy on applicant interviews. You can search our website for housing authority and apartment community contact information here.


What does it mean when a waiting list is open indefinitely?

When a waiting list is open indefinitely it means that the waiting list does not have a scheduled closing date, and will remain open until further notice. It also means that the wait time is likely two years or less, since most housing authorities close their waiting lists once the wait time reaches two years or more.


When applying, can I submit a copy of a document instead of the original?

Each housing authority operates differently, so we cannot give you a definite answer.


Some housing offices require you to submit the original document (such as a birth certificate or Social Security Card), but others require copies to be submitted. Please contact the office you apply through with this inquiry.


If my child is disabled, would I qualify for a disability preference?

Generally, no.


In most cases, a household may qualify for a preference only if the head of household, co-head or spouse qualifies. Minors who qualify would not usually grant that household the preference on the waiting list. Still, each housing authority sets their preferences independently, and can define these preferences however they like. It is possible the housing office you apply through looks at it a little differently. For that reason, you should contact your local housing authority directly to be sure.

You can find contact for your housing authority by searching our website here.


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.


Can I be transferred to a different waiting list?

Generally, no, you cannot be transferred to a different waiting list. To be placed on a different waiting list, you must apply as a new applicant.

There are cases where a household can be transferred to a different area or housing program, but that usually only occurs after you are off the waiting list and currently receive housing assistance.


Is there any way I can apply to a closed waiting list?

No, you may not apply to a closed waiting list, under any circumstances.

These are not emergency housing programs, so even an emergency housing issue would not allow you to apply.

You must wait until the waiting list you are interested in reopens, or apply to a nearby open waiting list.


I accidentally made an error when filling out my application. How can I fix this?

Once you have made this realization, immediately contact the housing authority or apartment community you applied to, and ask how to update your information.

An error on your application may disqualify you from receiving assistance, so it is recommended that you take action as soon as possible.

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


I reached the top of the waiting list, and was told to come in for an interview. I can't travel there, but need the assistance. What can I do?

When your name reaches the top of a waiting list, you are required to visit the housing office for an in-person interview. Sometimes, just the head of household is required to attend, but all adult members or the entire household may be required to be present at the interview.

Applicants who do not attend this meeting risk becoming removed from the waiting list.

While HUD does not have a specific policy for this scenario, if the applicant cannot attend due to a medical reason, the housing office may be able to provide accommodation. Please contact the housing office you applied to for more information. You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


I recently separated from my significant other, but we are both on the waiting list together. Can we receive assistance separately?

No, if you are both on the waiting list together, one of you must be taken off of the application.

In the event that a family breaks up, the housing authority has discretion to determine which members of the family would continue to receive assistance.

There are several factors that could determine who remains on the program, such as domestic/dating violence; stalking; the interest of minor children or of ill, elderly or disabled household members; and any additional considerations that may be identified by the housing authority.

Also, it is important that the household must still qualify for the income limit of the remaining household members. For example, if those remaining in the household earned the majority of the household's income, it is possible that they do not qualify for the newly designated income limit.

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


I was placed on a waiting list, does this mean I'm getting rental assistance?

No, being placed on a waiting list does not guarantee that you will receive housing assistance. It means that you have passed the basic eligibility requirements to be considered to receive assistance once your name has reached the top of the waiting list.

Many housing offices do some basic eligibility screening before placing applicants on the waiting list, but will then require a final eligibility screening once their name reaches the top of the waiting list. Other offices don't determine eligibility until their name has reached the top of the waiting list. The final qualification process will require an in-person interview. Contact the housing office you apply through to confirm its eligibility policy.

Persons who have been placed on the waiting list must inform the housing office immediately if your application information changes (such as contact information, income, and household members). In the case that the office sends a notice that does not get returned, or if application information is out of date, your name may be terminated from the waiting list. Contact the housing office to find out how to update application information.

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


I'm on the waiting list. Do I need to reapply when it opens again?

Usually, no, you do not need to reapply after being placed on a waiting list.

Once you are on a waiting list, you do not need to re-apply. Not only that, but, re-applying to a waiting list that you are already on may have negative consequences. A housing office may terminate an application if it receives a multiple submissions.

If you are still on a waiting list, and it reopens, it likely means the housing office is close to exhausting its current waiting list, and you will soon receive assistance.

However, we are aware of rare instances in which the entire waiting list is purged yearly, and all persons must re-apply if they have not yet received assistance by a given date.

Contact the housing office you apply through for more information on how it operates its waiting list. You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


I've already applied, but I'm still waiting. Should I apply to other waiting lists?

Yes, it is advantageous to apply to other waiting lists to maximize your chances of receiving assistance as soon as possible.

When applying to multiple waiting lists, it's important to keep a record to keep a record of all waiting lists you have applied to for reference. It can be easy to lose track of this information, keep it in a safe, easy to access place, and update it each time you apply to a new waiting list.


Am I still eligible if I submit more than one application?

If you submit more than one application, you may or may not be eligible for assistance, based on the policy of the housing authority or apartment community you applied through.

In some cases, duplicate applications for the same household would disqualify that household of being placed on the waiting list. In other situations, the household would not be disqualified, but the duplicate applications would be terminated.

Public notices often state what the policy is if multiple applications are submitted.

If a duplicate application for the same household was submitted by mistake, or because of confusion, contact the housing office immediately to explain what happened.

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


How do I find shorter waiting lists?

Generally, large metropolitan areas have long waiting lists, while lower populated areas have shorter waiting lists.

If you don't mind moving, applying for housing assistance in a rural area will usually reduce the amount of time you'll wait for assistance.

The wait time can vary depending on the housing program you apply to as well. An affordable apartment community's waiting list is usually shorter than a Section 8 or Public Housing waiting list (if the property has one at all). However, the waiting list may still be many months to years long, and applicants must go through an approval process.

Also, qualifying for preferences can decrease your wait time. Housing offices often set preferences, such as disabled, elderly or employed applicants, and those who qualify are placed higher on the waiting list than general applicants.

Another strategy to shorten your wait time is to target openings that place applicants on the waiting list by date and time the application is received. If you are among the first to apply, you would have a very high spot on the waiting list. Although, this would require you to be among the first in line, or being fortunate enough to be the first to get through over the phone or online.


If a waiting list is closed, but I qualify for a preference, can I still apply?

No, if a waiting list is closed, you may not apply at that time, and no circumstances would allow you to apply until it reopens. Preferences are for qualified applicants to be placed on the waiting list higher than general applicants.


If I do not get placed on a waiting list, will the housing agency return the copies of personal documents I sent?

If you do not get placed on at waiting list, it depends on the housing agency's policy if the copies of your personal documents (such as your photo ID and Social Security Card) will be returned to you.

A lot of housing agencies do return these documents, but it is not a guarantee. If they are not returned, they are likely stored securely or destroyed. However, if you contact the housing agency and request these documents to be returned, it's likely the documents will be returned.

Contact the housing agency you applied to for more information. You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


I just applied to a waiting list, now what do I do?

Now, you wait until confirming if you have been placed on the waiting list.

It is a bit complicated to explain how long the application approval process takes, especially since the process is different at each different housing office. Once your application has been submitted, it will generally take between a couple of weeks and a couple of months for it to be processed. This depends on the resources available to review applications. Usually, online applications are processed more quickly than paper applications.

If the application meets the guidelines to be placed on the waiting list, the applicant will be contacted; usually via a letter or email. The application or public notice about the waiting list opening may have information on when waiting list status will be available, and how to find out your status. Many agencies do not contact applicants who were not placed on the waiting list, but some will send a notice to all applicants confirming if they have been selected.

Once you are on a waiting list, your wait time varies greatly depending on the agency you applied through. Waiting lists are generally sorted either by random lottery, or by date and time the application is received by the agency. 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.

Applicants who have been placed on the waiting list must inform the housing authority immediately if your application information changes (such as contact information, income, and household members). In the case that the office sends a notice that does not get returned, or if application information is out of date, your name may be terminated from the waiting list. Contact the housing authority to find out how to update application information.

You can contact the housing office you apply through to find out if a representative can estimate the current length of the waiting list. If the office cannot make an estimate, and you apply through a housing authority, 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. However, 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 applied to, contact the appropriate housing authority or apartment community. You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search for housing authority and apartment community contact information.


The Section 8 and Public Housing waiting lists in my area are closed. Are there other affordable housing programs?

If the waiting list is closed in the area you want to apply in, you cannot apply at that time, but there may be other programs available other than Section 8 HCV and Public Housing. Housing authorities often provide additional housing programs. You can also 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.

You may search for your area of interest through our website to find out what other programs are available.