How Do Section 8 Wait lists Work?
Unfortunately, the need for affordable housing is much greater than what is available. As a result, housing agencies and owners of multifamily housing must keep waiting lists of applicants. In recent years, these waiting lists have grown longer. In fact, many places may have partially or completely stopped taking applications at all.
Because the waiting lists are so long, it is important to:
- Apply for as many different housing programs as you can.
- See if you fit into any preferences or priorities.
- Request a written receipt for all applications you submit.
- Keep track of your applications and your place on all the waiting lists.
How do I find out whether a list is open?
The most reliable way to check wait lists is to visit or call your local Public Housing Agency.For a listing of all PHA’s with their phone numbers visit here.
You may also find out from the newspaper when a Section 8 waiting list opens. A housing authority must give public notice. The notice must be published in a local newspaper of general circulation, and through minority media. The notice must state where and when to apply as well as any limitations on who may apply.
Can a waiting list be closed?
Yes. Sometimes a waiting list for a particular type of housing can be closed. If this happens, you cannot apply for that type of housing with that housing agency or landlord.
How are waiting lists organized?
Waiting lists can be organized either by the date and time your application was received or by a random lottery. In recent years, housing authorities have been encouraged to use a random lottery system for fairness, especially when a closed waiting list is open only a short time.
A random lottery can work in many different ways. Applications will be accepted for a certain period of time. Then, after a housing authority closes the application period, it creates a waiting list by randomly picking applicants and assigning them a number on the waiting list. The housing agency can use a random lottery among all applicants on a waiting list or among all applicants in particular priority categories.
Regardless of the procedures, you should request a written receipt for all applications you submit. Housing authorities are required to provide a written receipt to applicants for state public housing, and most other programs will do so at your request. Save these receipts. They are your best proof that you have applied for a particular housing program and the date you applied.
Because housing authorities and subsidized landlords usually get more applicants than there are units available, in order to decide who gets housing first, they may categorize people into preferences and priorities.
Preferences can determine who will be placed at the top of a given waiting list. In many areas, because of the length of waiting lists, whether you qualify for a preference may determine whether and how quickly you receive housing. In some instances, a waiting list may be closed to people without preferences and open only to people who qualify for certain preferences. So if you are told that a list is closed, you should ask whether the list is open to any people with a preference.However, some waiting lists are so long that even people with preferences may have a long wait. What is important is to understand whether you fit into any preferences or priorities at each place you apply.