Limited Access to Section 8 Vouchers

New opportunities for Section 8 rental assistance plummeted by one-third in 2020.

Historically, getting on a waiting list for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program can be a challenge.

And when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the impacts made it even harder to access Section 8 vouchers nationwide. But the pandemic also motivated the adoption of more fair and inclusive policies that made it easier to apply for a voucher.

Affordable Housing Online analyzed Section 8 waiting list openings from 2016-2020. The data paints a picture of what renters face when applying for housing assistance, and how the pandemic affected their access.


  • Renters were more likely to face barriers accessing Section 8 waiting lists in rural communities than in urban areas.
  • Scheduled waiting list openings plummeted in the first two months of the pandemic, and remained low for most of the remaining months.
  • The use of online applications to apply for Section 8 rose by 21% from 2019-2020.
  • Although the number of scheduled waiting list openings fell in 2020, they were open more than double the average number of days as in 2019.

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