Applying for public housing can be a daunting task. This article aims to make the process as easy as possible for you, providing all the info you'll need to see if you qualify, how to apply, what discounts on rent look like under public housing, and what to expect at every step of the process.
Whether you are in need of affordable housing or looking for detailed information on the Housing Choice Voucher program (formerly Section 8), all that information can be found below.
Qualifying for Public Housing
Generally speaking, there are 2 main types of public housing options to qualify for: vouchers or subsidized/low income/affordable housing. Which one you can qualify for depends entirely on the location you live in vs the amount of money you earn annually. Said another way, your city/town's median income vs your own income. So it's all about location.
Works like this:
If you make 50-80% of your location's median income, you can qualify for subsidized/affordable housing.
If you make 50% or less of your location's median income, you can qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher program. (formerly known as Section 8 Housing)
Check your location's median income limits here. Chose the individual or family option provided in that link. Of course, if you earn more than 80% of your location's median income, you will not qualify for either program.
Vouchers vs Subsidized Housing
WITH VOUCHERS, you can live anywhere you want (in theory), as long as the landlord accepts your Housing Choice Vouchers for rent. (Discrimination laws make it difficult for landlords to turn you down simply based on this fact alone, though it can be difficult to prove the discrimination. So keep that in mind.)
How much you can get off rent depends (again) entirely off of your location and how much you earn. There are actually two brackets of consideration: Very low income individuals or families account for 31-50% of the median income of your location. Whereas extremely low income individuals or families account for those making 30% or less than the median average.
The amount of the voucher is then determined by your location and if you are classified as very low or extremely low. You can get the full details of how the program works by visiting HUD's official page - Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet.
WITH SUBSIDIZED/AFFORDABLE HOUSING, you can live anywhere where the landlord/property owner participates in this program, at a low-income discount. HUD.gov offers a search portal if you're interested in apartment living, to make the process easy for you. Just start by choosing your state. Then filter the results by your city/county/zip and apartment type.
Otherwise, truly the best way to search is to google your location + low income or affordable housing. It's a very common search that should yield very specific and helpful results.
How much of a rent discount you receive (once again, broken record here) depends entirely on your location. Anyone earning only 50-80% of their location's median income can qualify. Though, I recommend reading through HUD's Public Housing Program Fact Sheet for specific information regarding rent discounts.
Applying for Public Housing
Contact your local Public Housing Agency. That link is from HUD. It's the official portal for applying for public housing. It's also highly recommended that you start the process as soon as possible. The waiting lists and open registration can be daunting and, in some cases, very long. But well worth the effort. It's not too involved a process; something you should be able to do within a day or two. Just make sure you have all of your paperwork ready and in order.
Use this check sheet (scroll down to How Does The Application Process Work? section). OR, contact a housing counseling agency directly by state, or by calling 1-800-569-4287 for specific questions and guidance throughout the process.
Waiting Lists - By City and State
Open Public Housing Waiting Lists By State. Finally, use this resource to find out your location's specific open registration dates and waiting lists information. It can be very helpful to stay on top of exactly when to register, and how long you should expect to wait.
In some cases, waiting lists can be years. I know, I know. That's not fun to hear. But, other times, it can be immediate, if you are lucky. To stick to the theme of this article, I'm sure you can guess what I'll say at this point.. it all depends on your location.
Good luck and hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.