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.

More Waiting Lists FAQs from Low Income Households

  • What has to be included in my household income?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Who qualifies for affordable housing assistance?
  • Can I apply to multiple waiting lists?