Why Affordable Housing Online is the Best Source for Affordable Housing Data

Over the last two decades, many services have emerged trying to duplicate Affordable Housing Online data or even outright stealing our data and reporting it as their own. In the words that follow, we will list each legitimate and illegitimate source and explain how they fall short of their promises of actionable affordable housing information.

AffordableHousing.com (Legitimate)

Formally GoSection8, this site specializes in providing software solutions to Public Housing Authorities in the form of Rent Reasonableness Reports, Section 8 landlord listing management and most recently waiting list management. AffordableHousing.com is a legitimate company but their focus is on selling software solutions to housing providers, but not on providing housing searchers the most complete data they can. For example, the housing opportunities highlighted on the site are very limited. They mostly consist of single-family homes and apartment buildings that accept Section 8 vouchers. Though this group of housing opportunities is important, their housing database is missing millions of rental units in larger apartment communities. Recently, the site started reporting on Section 8 waiting list openings but they don’t seem to have a dedicated editorial or research staff like Affordable Housing Online does. In fact, at times, it appears they use our research team’s findings to update their waiting list data.

Takeaway: You should use AffordableHousing.com if you have a voucher and are looking for a single-family home or a rental in a small apartment building. Their Section 8 waiting list data is inferior to ours and often lags in its reporting time and is much less thorough.

Google (Legitimate)

Over the years, Google has started to provide affordable housing data directly on its Search Results Pages. This data may include lists of affordable apartment communities in the cities being searched, reviews of affordable apartment communities, public housing authority contact info, and frequently asked questions on affordable housing subjects. The data provided by Google is generally reliable albeit basic. Aside from contact info, locations and office hours, Google doesn’t offer much more detail.

Takeaway: Google is a reliable source but the affordable housing data it provides is generally quite basic and requires much more detail to be actionable.

Apartments.com (Legitimate)

Apartments.com, a site owned by the large real estate software company, CoStar, has begun embracing affordable rental housing over the last few years. Historically, the site has been the lead apartment site for non-affordable housing. When Dave founded Affordable Housing Online in 2001, he largely did so because Apartments.com, then the leading source of rental housing data on the web, was completely ignoring affordable housing. This stems from the site’s business model. It charges apartment communities to advertise its units to renters. Since most affordable rental communities have waiting lists and don’t require marketing services, they never make it into the site’s database. With that being said, the site has begun embracing affordable rental housing more than in the past. You can now find an “affordable” filter in their search console. For LIHTC properties that don’t have waiting lists, the site may have pretty complete data. The majority of affordable rental communities have little deep data.

Takeaway: Apartments.com covers some affordable housing (usually properties that are unsubsidized without waiting lists) but doesn’t come close to the number of affordable units that Affordable Housing Online does. You should use the site as long as you are aware it is an incomplete source and won’t provide any data on subsidized properties or Section 8 waiting lists.

Emphasys Housing Locator (formerly SocialServe) (Legitimate)

Emphasys Software, a software company serving public housing authorities and housing finance agencies, bought former non-profit SocialServe.com’s housing locator software product. The product provides state and local housing finance agencies a platform to list apartment communities these agencies have financed. Each housing locator is local to a state, county, or city. The local authority is responsible for promoting the service and enlisting property owners to populate the listing information. For the most part, these housing locators provide current and accurate data on LIHTC properties. As the vast majority of these locators are for housing finance agencies whose portfolios are largely LIHTC properties, the vast amount of data provided is on LIHTC properties

Takeaway: Emphasys Housing locators provide current, accurate data on LIHTC properties for about half the states in the country. In those states, the database is largely LIHTC properties. It is far from a complete database (like Affordable Housing Online) but is still worth using to find LIHTC properties if the locator serves your area.

LowIncomeHousing.us (Questionable Legitimacy)

This site has operated for several years providing basic (often inaccurate or incomplete) information on affordable rental housing properties. We believe in the early days of its existence, the site copied our content. Today, the content is still questionable. Many property “photos” are generic interior stock photos used over and over across hundreds of properties on the site. The data provided on individual properties is very basic. The site is U.S.-based but seems to be operated from a single-family home in Florida.

Takeaway: The site does not identify who is behind it. It uses fake pictures for its property pages. The data it publishes is easily attainable from more reputable sources. Stay away.

HUD (Legitimate)

Arguably, the most legitimate, authoritative source of U.S. affordable housing data, HUD has funded or has oversight over at least half of America’s affordable rental housing. With that being said, providing thorough, actionable data on that housing is not this Federal agency’s forte. Though HUD is the source of much of the raw data we use to create content our users can use to find affordable housing, the data HUD provides is not user-friendly nor easily found.

Takeaway: The site can be used for finding large amounts of raw data but does not provide a user-friendly presentation format that housing searchers can use to easily find housing opportunities.

Zillow (Legitimate)

Like Apartments.com, Zillow is a large real estate marketing site. Known for its for-sale housing database, it has featured more and more rental listings in recent years. The site does have an “Income Restricted” filter in its housing search console but a search using this filter yields few results. This is because, like Apartments.com, Zillow only includes properties that pay them to be featured on the site. Since most affordable rental apartments don't need or can’t afford online marketing, they are absent from the site.

Takeaway: Though a legitimate site, its business model prevents it from displaying many affordable housing opportunities. Your time is better spent on other sites like Affordable Housing Online.

Trulia, Rent.com, ApartmentList and ApartmentGuide (Legitimate)

All of these listing sites are in the same boat as Apartments.com and Zillow. Their business models dictate that only properties willing and able to pay them to be featured will appear in their database.

Takeaway: Though you will find some LIHTC properties on these sites, they are far from thorough and most searches will result in no findings.

AffordableHousingHub (Illegitimate)

This site has gained significant traction in both Google and Bing search engines in 2023. The site has no identifying company or individual that operates it. The site’s Facebook page has 154 followers as compared to Affordable Housing Online’s 223,000 followers. The site does not do it’s own research. It steals our content, rewrites that content with Artificial Intelligence and reposts it. We have been able to prove all of their waiting list information originates with our site. We have filed multiple complaints with Google about the fact they are copying our content but Google continues to rank the site high for Section 8 waiting list-related searches.

The worst part of this is the site is monetizing its web traffic by collecting users personal info (email and phone) and selling it to spammers. If one of their users clicks on the “Begin Application Now” button on a Section 8 waiting list announcement, the user is prompted with their spam data collection form. This alone should be a reason for Google and Bing to ban them from the search engines.

Takeaway: STAY AWAY from this site. They collect and sell your data and they steal our research. These are not reputable housing experts but likely offshore spammers and copycats.