Waiting List FAQs

Table of Contents

What is a Section 8 voucher?

A Section 8 voucher is a rental assistance subsidy that is made available through the Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8. Vouchers may be tenant-based, meaning that the tenant can use them towards rental payments for housing that is managed by a private landlord. Alternatively, they may be project-based, meaning that the voucher remains attached to a rental unit that is managed by an affordable housing provider. With a voucher, a renter pays approximately 30-40% of his or her income towards rent, and the remainder is paid by the local Housing Authority.

Am I eligible to apply for a voucher?

To be eligible to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a renter must be at or below a certain income level. In general, income categories are broken down into moderate, low, very low, and extremely low. Every year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development establishes income levels for each individual county in the United States. In addition, you must be a U.S. citizen or have a valid immigration status.

How do I apply for a voucher?

You can apply for a tenant-based voucher by contacting your local Housing Authority and submitting an application that includes copies of any requested supporting documentation. You can apply for a project-based voucher by contacting an affordable housing provider directly. Each private housing provider has its own application process.

How long will I have to wait to receive a voucher after applying?

The waiting list for tenant-based vouchers can be extremely long in many areas throughout the country. Many wait lists are currently closed and not accepting new applicants. They will not reopen until more funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program is made available to a region by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It can take years for an application to reach the top of the waiting list for a tenant-based voucher, and the same is true of many project-based vouchers. Your wait may be shortened if you meet any of the preferences specified in the tenant selection process that is used by a Housing Authority or private housing provider.

What are waiting list preferences and how do they affect my application status?

Every local Housing Authority or private housing provider may apply a set of preferences that determines the order in which they process applications and select tenants. For example, priority in a tenant selection plan is frequently given to individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The risk of becoming homeless can be established by showing that an excessively high portion of your income is being used for rent, the house that you are living in has been foreclosed on, or you are at risk of being evicted for nonpayment of rent.

Preferences may also be given to individuals who urgently need new housing because they are victims of domestic violence or a natural disaster. In addition, a Housing Authority or a private housing provider may prioritize applications when the applicant or a member of the applicant’s household is elderly or disabled. If you or someone in your household meets a targeted preference of the Housing Authority, your application for a voucher may be processed before applications that don’t meet the preferences in a tenant selection plan.

Are landlords obligated to accept tenants who will be using vouchers to pay their rent?

No, landlords may choose to not rent to a person applying for occupancy for any reason so long as it is not discriminatory. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against individuals based on national origin, color, race, religion, sex, family status, or disability. New York state law further prohibits discrimination based on individuals’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

How do I update the information in an application that I have already submitted?

If you need help to update the information in your application for a tenant-based voucher, contact your local Housing Authority. If you need help to update the information in your application for a project-based voucher, contact the housing provider.

You need to update your application if any important information changes. For example, you should update your application when there is a material change in your income or household size. It is extremely important that you keep your contact information current. If the Housing Authority or a housing provider is unable to contact you, it is possible that you may lose your place on the waiting list.

How can I check my waiting list status?

To check the status of your place on the waiting list for a tenant-based voucher, contact the Housing Authority where you submitted your application . To check on the status of your place on the waiting list for a project-based voucher, contact the housing provider directly. When you contact a private housing provider, a representative can tell you approximately how far up you are on the waiting list. It may be difficult for a representative to gauge how long it will take to advance further because the availability of a voucher depends on currently occupied units becoming vacant.

What can I do if my application was removed from the waiting list?

If you fail to respond to a request to update your application information or confirm your contact question, it is possible that a Housing Authority or a private housing provider may remove you from a waiting list. If you are removed from a waiting list, you can reapply by submitting a new application. It may be possible to appeal your removal and be put back on the list. Every Housing Authority and private housing provider has its own policies regarding the process of appealing removal from a waiting list.

Waiting List Tips

Keep Your Information Up to Date 

Housing agencies don’t like surprises. Make sure you always keep your account information as accurate as possible. Make sure to update your account in the event of a change in household income, family composition or any other important information.

Get Text Message or SMS Notifications

Make sure you don’t miss a single opportunity. Sign up to receive messages so that you always know as soon as a property owner makes an offer.

Keep an Eye On the Listing Site 

Look for new housing opportunities for which you may be eligible. You never know when a waiting list will open up.

Update Your Contact Information

You don’t want to miss any communications from a property owner or housing agency. Make sure the phone number, email address and mailing address on your account are always up to date.

Don’t Lose Your Place on the List 

In order to remain on the waiting list, your account needs to stay updated. If you see a notification that says “Updates Required,” make sure to review and update your application.

Sign Into Your Account Frequently 

Don’t miss a message or update request. Housing agencies require that your account stay up to date; some may ask you to confirm that you want to stay on the waiting list.