After submitting your application for Section 8, you do not always receive a voucher right away. Instead, you may be placed on your local public housing authority’s (PHA) waiting list. Being placed on a Section 8 waiting list can be a frustrating and slow experience, particularly if you were not aware that it could happen before applying. It is important to understand how the waiting list works in order to determine when you might be able to receive your voucher.
Additionally, it is important to know how to protect your place on a Section 8 housing waiting list once you apply. If you do not update your information regularly, you may be removed from the list, forcing you to reapply all over again. The process for remaining on a list depends on the PHA you have, so it is important to consult your local PHA’s policies when applying for Section 8.
About Getting on the Section 8 Waiting List
In order to get your name on the Section 8 waiting list, you must submit a complete application for a voucher. The application process is different from PHA to PHA. Some allow you to apply online, while others require a paper application that you must mail, fax or submit in person. A few PHAs require you to schedule an in-person appointment to complete an application.
Regardless of the method you use to apply, you generally must provide the same information. This includes the following information for every member of your household:
- Social Security number (SSN)
- Birth certificate
- Total income and assets for all members
You should also describe your rental history, any disabilities in the household, and your current residential status.
Once you submit an application, your local PHA will determine if you are eligible for benefits. If you meet the eligibility requirements, your name is added to the Section 8 waiting list. If you do not meet the requirements, you may be required to provide additional information, or your application may be rejected.
It is important to note that due to the high demand for vouchers, your PHA may only open the Section 8 waiting list for a short period of time. This can be a few weeks or even a few days in a year, depending on demand in your area. When the application period is not open, your name cannot be added to the waiting list. Keep a close eye on your PHA to determine when it is accepting applications.
How long is a Section 8 housing waiting list?
The amount of time an applicant spends on the Section 8 waiting list depends on several factors, including how many vouchers are available for the area. Vouchers are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
HUD rarely increases funding for vouchers in an area, and participants don’t have to leave Section 8 as long as they remain eligible. Therefore, new vouchers become available only when current voucher holders become ineligible, are expelled from the program, die, or give up their vouchers. It can take several months to several years to get off the housing authority waiting list. Some PHAs have a few hundred vouchers, while others have 1,000 or more.
Demand can be unevenly distributed in some cases — there may be more requests for Section 8 vouchers in a big area like New York City than there are for cheaper areas like Benson County, North Dakota. A few states, like Rhode Island, allow candidates to apply to numerous HUD waiting lists at once, rather than restricting themselves to one area. This can help distribute the demand more widely, lowering the waiting list time.
How to Check Your Section 8 Waiting List Status
Once your name is on the Section 8 waiting list, you must wait for your number to be called. This can take a very long time. If your application system is online, you may be able to check your Section 8 waiting list status in order to determine how much longer you will have to wait. Additionally, you can perform a Section 8 waitlist check to determine if you should update your application.
Many PHAs will remove applicants on a regular basis if they are inactive. Checking your status can help you determine if you must update your application. It is important to update the following information if any of it changes while you are on the waitlist:
- Household makeup
- Address information
You may be able to change your eligibility status or priority status with critical updates. For example, if you become homeless while waiting for a voucher, updating your application to reflect that may move you up on the list.
In some PHAs, however, you cannot check your Section 8 waiting list status. You may be able to check the general status of your application, but not your place in line or how long you have to wait. PHAs may discourage you from contacting them about your placement on the list. Confirm what the policies are with your local PHA and where you can access information about your current status, if it is available.
Prioritization and the Section 8 Lottery
Not all applications on the housing authority waiting list will have to wait for the same amount of time. PHAs may prioritize some candidates over others, depending on their individual status. For example, some PHAs may choose to put applicants who are currently homeless at the top of the list and assign them vouchers first. Others may choose to prioritize veterans or victims of domestic violence. Individuals who do not meet a PHA’s priority placement guidelines will have to wait longer for a voucher.
Additionally, not all PHAs issue vouchers in the same way for the general list. While many PHAs operate on a first-come, first-served basis, many use a Section 8 lottery system instead. A lottery system means it is not always possible to determine when you will get a place on the waiting list. You cannot check your Section 8 waiting list status to figure out how much time you have left. Instead, you must wait to be informed that your lottery number has been drawn.