The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, offers housing assistance in the form of monthly benefits that are paid directly to a landlord in order to reduce a participating family’s rental responsibilities.
However, the demand and need for housing assistance in the United States exceed the amount of funding available for the program.
Therefore, if your family is approved for benefits, you will be placed on a waiting list if funding is not immediately available to provide you with assistance.
Once on a waiting list, it is important to know what to expect in terms of average wait times, local preferences and additional options that may be available to you.
What is a Section 8 waiting list?
If Housing Choice Voucher Program benefits are not available to assist a qualifying family immediately, that family is placed on a waiting list that is monitored by the Public Housing Agency (PHA) that accepted the Section 8 application.
If you are currently on a Section 8 waiting list, it is vital that you inform your PHA of any changes to your mailing address or contact information.
Once assistance becomes available, your local office will contact you to reaffirm your Section 8 eligibility and assist you in finding a Section 8 approved rental property where you can begin receiving benefits. If the Public Housing Agency is unable to reach you, you may be removed from the waiting list.
What is the difference between an open and closed waiting list?
If a Public Housing Agency has a closed waiting list, this means that the agency can no longer accept new applications due to the sheer volume of eligible families and households that are currently on their waiting list. New applications will not be accepted until the waiting list is opened.
Instead, the PHA strives to assist and provide housing vouchers to all of the families that have already been on their lists before accepting new applicants.
Once it is opened, the PHA generally receives a surge of applications within the first few business days. Therefore, it is important to submit your application right away if your local agency has recently opened its waiting list.
Densely populated areas increase the likelihood of closed waiting lists. The more people live in a community, the higher the demand and need for housing assistance will be. In fact, certain large cities within the United States have not opened their waiting lists for years.
How long will I be on a Section 8 waiting list?
Depending on where you live, the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program may be notoriously long. This is due to the fact that there is more need for housing assistance than the program has funding for.
In some states, it is not uncommon for a family or household to remain on a waiting list for months or even years. In particularly populated counties and metropolitan areas, it can take months to even get onto a waiting list as closed waiting lings become relatively common in densely populated areas.
If you live in a less populated area but your PHA currently has a closed waiting list, it is recommended that you check the status of the waiting list frequently as less populated areas typically receive assistance faster in comparison to larger cities.
You can check the status of your local waiting list by contacting your local PHA.
Find Resources Related to Emergency Housing
If you are in need of emergency housing, the HUD provides emergency services. While HUD emergency assistance is available, there are also charities you can look to for immediate assistance.
- Salvation Army Rental Assistance
- HUD Exchange Homeless Assistance
Understanding Local Waiting List Preferences
Due to the high demand for housing assistance in America, most Public Housing Agencies have adopted local preferences to help deal with the sheer amount of applicants on a waiting list. These preferences are determined on a local level by the authorizing PHA based upon the greatest needs within the community.
Due to the variety in waiting lists, you may experience local preferences that prioritize households that include:
- A minority.
- A disabled person.
- A senior citizen.
While Section 8 benefits can be provided to qualifying households with income levels that do not exceed 50 percent of a county or metropolitan area’s median income level, current laws require 75 percent of all Housing Choice Voucher Program benefits to be provided to very low-income families that have an income that does not exceed 30 percent. Therefore, very-low-income families will often receive assistance before families that are considered to be low-income.
Learn About Applying to More Than One Section 8 Waiting List
Each county and the metropolitan area has its own Public Housing Agency and its own waiting lists. Therefore, you may be able to receive assistance faster if you and your family are willing to relocate to a nearby county or metropolitan area.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program does not limit the amount of Public Housing Agencies that you can submit an application with. Therefore, the HUD encourages low and very low-income families to apply to more than one PHA whenever possible.
Find Out How to Review Your Section 8 Requirements When Granted Assistance
Once you are contacted by your Public Housing Agency about available assistance, the agency will need to reaffirm your eligibility for program benefits. As stated previously, it is not uncommon for families to wait years to receive benefits in some areas across the U.S. For this reason, it is common for a family or household to no longer be eligible to receive assistance due to a change in family composition, household size or household income.
If you are no longer eligible for Section 8 benefits once benefits become available, you will be removed from the waiting list. You will also receive a notice for the denial of Section 8 benefits. This notice will detail the reason for your denial as well as provide you with additional instructions, should you wish to file an appeal.
If you do wish to appeal the decision, it is important to request an appeal prior to the date listed on the notice. Should you fail to appeal prior to the listed date, you will not be able to submit an appeal request.
Are there additional housing assistance programs available to low-income households?
If you have been placed on a waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, then there may be other assistance programs that can help you while you await benefits. The programs that available to you will depend on your personal circumstances, income, the area that you live within and other factors.
To learn more about additional housing assistance opportunities within your local community, it is important to contact your local Housing Public Agency. Your local agency can refer you to other programs that are available within your local area, including any non-profit organizations that offer assistance.
In addition to contacting your local Public Housing Agency, it is crucial that you contact the following agencies:
- State Housing Finance Agency
- Regional HUD office
- State human or social services agency
If you are a veteran, you are strongly encouraged to also contact your local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as there are additional low-income housing assistance programs you may qualify for. These options include, but are not limited to the HUD-VASD program, which combines HUD housing vouchers and VA supportive services.
If you are a senior citizen, you may benefit from utilizing Eldercare. Eldercare is a free service provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging that helps senior citizens connect with state, federal and local resources. Available resources may include assistance with housing, legal services, healthcare, insurance and other services.
Finally, it is essential that you take the time to apply for other forms of assistance that you may qualify for. In doing so, you will have more resources to allocate towards the cost of housing, thus alleviating some of the financial burdens you carry. If you have not already done so, it is worth taking the time to apply for other federal and state programs such as:
- The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps).
- Lifeline (discounted phone or internet services).
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