The Section 8 housing program provides subsidized rental assistance to those who qualify. Because of heavy demand, getting into the Housing Choice Voucher Program can be a drawn-out process. Most public housing authorities, which administer Section 8 vouchers at the local level, have a pre-application process just to get on a waiting list. Housing authorities notify the public when waiting lists open.
How Often Housing Authorities Accept Applications
Once you are on the waiting list, you may spend years updating and following up on your application before you are chosen to formally apply for Section 8. Each housing authority has its own waiting list, as each serves a specific jurisdiction and has a limited amount of resources and openings for the program. At the time of publication, if was not uncommon for housing authorities to open a waiting list after five or more years and experience an influx of several thousand applications. Although a housing authority might open its waiting list and accept thousands of applications within a short period of time, it may have only a few available vouchers. This leads to a lengthy backlog. Some housing authorities use a lottery system to select applicants, while others randomly choose applicants for a waiting list. The Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends applying with more than one housing authority.
How the Housing Authorities Announce Openings
A housing authority will announce a waiting list opening using local publications, social media, third-party agencies and the authority's website. A waiting list usually opens for a limited time, such as four days, and the authority provides the public with specific start and end dates and times. The pre-application process for a waiting list is usually completed online, but may entail a printable package that you can mail or submit in person to the housing authority. You must contact an authority's office or check its website for specific instructions on how to apply when a waiting list opens.
Locating Your Local PHA
HUD, which funds Section 8, maintains a list of public housing authorities nationwide. HUD's website is open to the public and allows you to choose your state and county of interest. Each state typically has a main housing authority plus dozens of city and county authorities that administer the program locally. Although you might not have to live within the housing authority's jurisdiction when you apply for Section 8, the authority may require that you reside in the area for at least one year before it approves a voucher. You also must meet the area's income limits when you apply.
Find out the housing authority's protocol for updating your contact information. Because it can take years for you to be selected from a waiting list, and you don't know exactly when a voucher may become available, you must ensure that the office has your current address, phone number and the name of any other points of contact. The authority might discard outdated applications periodically, such as once a year.
Also, follow up on your application status using the authority's hotline or designated status-check system. The authority's website should provide this information as well as estimated turnaround times for confirmation of receipt of your application.