Learn About the Waiting List for Section 8

Section 8, or the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, is a housing assistance program for households struggling to make rent payments. This program reduces participant’s rental costs by paying a large portion of the total cost directly to landlords. Unfortunately, there is a large demand for this program and not enough resources or funding to support every qualified applicant. 

As a result, you and the other members of your household are likely to be placed on a waitlist if there is no housing availability in your area. It is helpful to understand the length of time you will be on a waiting list once you are approved for a Section 8 voucher. Continue reading below to learn about HCV waitlists and the other options you have while waiting. 

Basics of Section 8 Waitlists 

A waiting list is implemented by many public housing agencies (PHAs) when there are not enough resources for all applicants who are eligible for assistance. While you wait on the list, you must keep your PHA up to date on any changes to your personal information such as your contact details and mailing address. This because your PHA will use your most recent contact information to inform you when you have been approved to receive your voucher. If you fail to update your information and the PHA attempts to contact you, you might be removed from the waiting list if you cannot be reached for a certain amount of time.   

Average Length of Time of Section 8 Waitlists

In some areas, Section 8 waitlists are long and it can take months or years to obtain a voucher. This often due to the lack of funding available for housing assistance. 

There are particular states in which waiting lists are regularly long. Populated and cities also usually have long waiting lists. In those places, it is no uncommon for waiting lists to be closed making eligible applicants unable to even get onto the waiting list. 

In less populated areas, waiting lists are more likely to be open and have shorter waiting periods. Thus, even if the waitlist is closed, you can check the status periodically can discover that you have been placed on the waiting list. On the other hand, you can inquire at your local PHA about your status. 

Closed Versus Open Waitlists

Section 8 waiting lists can be open or closed.  When a list is closed, that means that the managing PHA is not accepting any applications because of the number of residents who are already on the list. As a result, the PHA will not accept new applications until the households on the waiting list have received assistance. 

Once PHAs do open their waiting lists, they usually receive a large influx of new applicants in the first several days. Therefore, it is essential to submit yours as soon as possible once you find out that your list is open. 

Learn About Waitlist Preferences 

Because of the large volume of applicants for Section 8, many PHA offices have established priority preferences to help determine which applicants will be given vouchers. Different public housing authorities will have different preferences. 

Priorities are usually based on the greatest needs of the community. The common preference criteria include households with at least one member who is:

  • Disabled. 
  • Elderly.
  • A minor.

Although Section 8 eligibility income requirements specify that household must earn less than 50 percent of their area’s median income, program laws mandate that at least 75 percent of applicants must be considered very low income. This means that they do not earn more than 30 percent of the area’s median income. As a result, families with very low incomes will usually receive a housing voucher before a low-income family. 

How to Apply for Multiple Waitlists

PHAs in each city have different waitlists. This means that if you are willing to relocate to neighboring county or city with an open waiting list, you may be able to obtain assistance faster. Thankfully, you can apply for the HCV program at several public housing agencies. In fact, households are encouraged to apply for Section 8 housing at more than one PHA.  

Learn About Section 8 Requirements

After your PHA contacts you to inform you that you will be receiving your voucher, they will likely verify your eligibility again. As mentioned in a previous section, many applicants wait to receive their housing voucher for many months or years. By the time they have moved to the top of the list, some no longer qualify due to changes in income and/or household size and composition. Because of this, PHAs review applicants’ eligibility when they reach the top of the waitlist. 

Residents who are found to be ineligible once they reach the top of their waiting list are removed from the waitlist. Then, they are informed of their denial of benefits. This notice comes with instructions for making an appeal of the decision should you choose to do so. 

If you decide to appeal your PHA’s decision, you must make sure to initiate the process by the date that is indicated in your notice of denial. If you do not submit your request to appeal before that day, you will not be able to appeal the decision. 

Find Out About Other Programs for Housing Assistance

You may be eligible for a number of other housing assistance programs while you are on a waitlist for Section 8 benefits. However, the programs that are available to you will depend on several factors. These include your income, family size and composition, the city or county you live in as well as the resources of your local PHA and other organizations. 

If you want to know what opportunities and benefits are available in your area, you can contact the public housing agency in your community. A representative will be able to provide you with numerous resources including housing assistance and refer you to non-profit organizations that offer assistance.