How To Get Section 8 (Even When the Wait Lists Are Closed!)

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Art: Robin Mead

Section 8 Housing is a housing program that can be a key to financial survival for people who are low-income and disabled. But there’s a catch. It is hard to get on the waiting list. If you are willing to be persistent, it is possible!

Many people look for Section 8 by calling a few agencies, getting told the waiting lists are closed, and then giving up. Or applying for one waiting list, and then giving up. Or getting on a list for a Section 8 lottery, and then giving up.

Don’t do this! If you do it this way, you may be the waiting list for five years. Or ten years. Or the rest of your life.

Many of our readers were successful in getting Section 8 in three years or less. Sometimes one year or less. Here’s how they did it and how you can do it:

STEP ONE: LEARN A LITTLE ABOUT SECTION 8

If you have not already done so, it’s a really good idea to learn a little about How Section 8 Works & What Kind of Section 8 is Best for You

STEP TWO: SKIP THIS PAGE

As you are about to see, this is a long page with a lot of ideas. If you can’t cope with reading a long page, and you don’t want so many ideas, you can take a shortcut and apply an easier way. How to Find Open Waiting Lists The Easy Way

Of course, the easy way is not always the best way. If the easy way doesn’t work, you can always come back and try the harder way later.

STEP THREE: MAKE A LIST

In the ideal world, it’s really great if you can make a list of at least 100 different places you can call. This way, when the first 50 say “No,” you won’t be discouraged because you still have 50 more! Here’s how:

🌸 Here’s where you can start looking for places to add to your list: A Long, Long, Long List of Places You Can Call if You are Seeking Affordable Disability Housing

🌸 In some cases, you may be able to find a nonprofit housing group or community agency that has already compiled a good list of all affordable housing opportunities. However, in most cases, any list you are given will be incomplete and the only way to find everything is to do it yourself.

🌸 When looking online, you may find that it is difficult (read: impossible) to tell which places are Section 8 and which are not. That’s why you are going to have to call and ask what the rent is. Tip: Many Section 8 housing places no longer use the words “Section 8.”

🌸 Please don’t be discouraged if some places seem expensive. Keep calling.

🌸 Keep in mind that there is huge difference between a building that offers Section 8 apartments (automatically gives low rent) and a building that merely accepts Section 8 Vouchers (you need to already have a voucher in your hands to get lower rent).

🌸 If you are homeless or have a history of homelessness, start by reaching out to homeless and housing agencies. Some of these agencies have their own housing vouchers.

STEP FOUR: BE FLEXIBLE

Add as many places as you possibly can to your list. Don’t rule anything out! Here’s a few ideas for places you might consider adding:

🌸 Apply in other cities, counties and states. If you find a nice, inexpensive apartment that meets all your needs you may find it worth relocating.

🌸 If you get a housing voucher in another area, you may be able to take the voucher, move to that area for 12 months, and then apply to transfer the voucher so you can move back to where you are now. This is called “porting”.

🌸 If there is a medical reason you cannot move, in some situations it may be possible to get the 12-month rule waived as a reasonable disability accommodation. This means the voucher would be transferred to your area immediately.

🌸 If a waiting list is restricted to certain populations, it is sometimes worth calling and asking, or asking if they know of other lists that match your situation.

🌸 The more flexible you can be with location, the greater your chances of finding a good situation.

🌸 If you live in a remote rural area without a lot of options, use the HUD map and keep using the “+” and “-” sign to expand the map. This will show you more and more options.

🌸 If a place is too far to visit, ask to apply by mail or email. If they say you must come in person, you can request a disability accommodation to apply from home.

🌸 Important: If you are disabled, make sure to add to your list everywhere that says “seniors only.” You can call and ask if they will accept younger people with disabilities. They sometimes will.

🌸 If you are disabled but not on disability, you may still be able to apply for housing for people with disabilities. In many cases, your doctor just needs to sign a very simple form.

🌸 Different programs define “senior” in different ways. Some start at age 55. Some start at 50.

STEP FIVE: START CALLING

If you have difficulty making calls, see if you can find a friend to help. Or see if you can call one place per day until you are through your list.

🌸 Here’s some great ideas for: Questions to Ask When Calling Landlords and Housing Authorities

🌸 Call as many times as it takes til someone answers.

🌸 Or you can try leaving a message and seeing if someone calls you back. They might or might not.

🌸 If the answering machine or website says the waiting list is closed, call anyway. Ask if they can tell you the date when it will open.

🌸 If you have 100 places on your list, expect to make 200-300 calls. Be patient. If you find somewhere great to live in the end it will all be worth it.

🌸 If there is no front desk person who answers, you can try go to the staff directory (by phone or on their webpage) and try to find a housing manager to call.

🌸 If the waiting list is closed, call every few months and ask again if it is open or when it will open.

🌸 When you are calling Housing Authorities and other housing agency, call each one separately. For example, call your city housing authority, your state housing authority, your county housing authority, neighboring counties, nearby cities. They may each give you completely different answers.

STEP SIX: DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER

Dandelion was told no over and over (and over and over) again. She ignored them all and wound up getting offered Section 8 three times in less than six months. Dandelion Gets Nice, Affordable Housing QUICKLY

STEP SEVEN: NETWORK

Sometimes Community based mental health centers, veteran’s agencies, disability organizations, or other nonprofits have housing vouchers. These are often unadvertised or secret. Even their own staff members may not know they exist! Ask to speak directly to the person who manages housing opportunities.

If you become a client of a community mental health center, ask how you can get a case worker there and continue to ask until you find the staff person who manages housing opportunities.

Whenever you speak to someone, be sure to let them know if you are homeless, at-risk for homeless, escaping a domestic violence situation, disabled, or have other urgent housing needs. Ask what local agencies have vouchers.

Step 8: Next steps!

Found some open waiting lists you like? Time for the next page:

Learn More

🌸 Everything you need to know: Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky

🌸 Facebook Group: HUD and Section 8 Disabled Residents & Family Members

Updated April 2018. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

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