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.

🌸 Write down every place you find, even if it doesn’t say “Section 8,” even if it says “elderly only,” even if you don’t like the photo or location. Even if it doesn’t look like you are eligible. Don’t rule anything out. Information online is often wrong.

🌸 Some places say “Section 8” but aren’t really Section 8. Some places don’t say Section 8, but are really Section 8! If you want to know what’s what, you’ll just need to call each place and ask how much the rent is.

🌸 Some places will be apartments or properties, while other places will offer vouchers (find your own apartment and the voucher covers part of the rent). Apply for both. Options are good.

STEP FOUR: CAST YOUR NET WIDE

🌸 The more places you add to your list the better your chances of finding something great.

🌸 If possible, 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”. How to Port

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

🌷 Here’s where to find a very incomplete and small selection of Open Waiting Lists for Vouchers around the country.

🌸 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.

STEP FIVE: CALL EVERYWHERE

🌷 Call EVERYWHERE. 

🌷 If it says “elderly,” call and ask if they accept younger people with disabilities.

🌷 If it doesn’t mention Section 8, call and ask how much the rent is

🌷 If the website says the waiting list is closed, call and ask when it will open

🌷 If they can’t tell you when it will open, call back every few months and ask again

🌷 If no one calls you back, keep calling until someone finally picks up

🌷 If no one returns emails, call back until someone picks up

🌷 If no one answers the main number, look for a number for the housing manager

🌷 If you are not on disability, call and ask if you can apply with a doctor’s letter

🌷 If you are age 55+ call and ask what they consider “elderly”

🌷 If a place doesn’t look nice online, apply anyway. It doesn’t hurt to have options and sometimes the photos online are very misleading.

🌷 Many of the places you call won’t be available, or won’t turn out to be what you are looking for. Don’t worry. Just keep calling.

🌷 Pro tip: Some Housing Authorities have voucher programs that are statewide or regional. A Housing Authority that is three counties away may be able to give you a voucher that you can use right where you are! If an agency is too far away from you, you can still call and ask where their vouchers can be used.

🌷 You may find places that say “Section 8”, but then when you call, rent is expensive or not what you were expecting. Don’t be disappointed, just keep calling more places! Here’s a few examples of places that sound like Section 8, but are not actually Section 8.

STEP SIX: TRY EVERY HOUSING AUTHORITY

Try every Housing Authority. They may each give you completely different information.

🌸  Your city housing authority

🌸  Your state housing authority

🌸  Your county housing authority

🌸  Neighboring counties

🌸  Nearby cities

Contact them by phone and also check their website to make sure you find out everything available.

STEP SEVEN: ASK QUESTIONS

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

STEP EIGHT: 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 NINE: NETWORK

🌸 Sometimes Community based mental health centers, 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.

🌸 Other agencies that sometimes have vouchers: Domestic violence programs, disability centers, and homeless agencies. These vouchers 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.

🌸 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.

🌸 Reach out to homeless and housing agencies. You do not need to be living on the streets to qualify. In some cases, you will qualify if you have an eviction or foreclosure notice or if you are in a shelter or temporary or transient housing situation.

🌸 Some agencies give priorities to certain groups, allowing people to get special vouchers or to jump to the top of the waiting list. Ask what their priorities are. Examples of priorities are: Local residents, homeless, domestic violence, natural disasters, disabilities, seniors, veterans, and people separated from their children through child protective services.

🌸 If you meet a priority, be sure to let them know. If there is a priority for local residents, and you are not a local resident, you can still apply. But there is some chance you will be dead by the time your voucher is approved.

🌸 If you are in a special population, let people know and ask if there are any special priorities or housing programs for your group.

🌸 Some people get vouchers by finding a waiting list that is very short and gives preference to local residents, then moving into a motel room or temporary housing in that area and applying as a resident.

STEP TEN: NEXT STEPS!

Found some open waiting lists you like? Time for the next page: How to Apply, How to Get Approved (And every little thing that happens along the way)

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

🌷 Having problems? How to Get Help or File Complaints for HUD Housing

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: 

7 thoughts on “How To Get Section 8 (Even When the Wait Lists Are Closed!)”

  1. I am nearly 59 and living with my daughter. Even though i pay several of her bills and sleep in the living room in a chair, she has stated she wants her apartment to herself. I can’t blame her its time. I have put my name in 7 different lists. I call ao much that they say “Gail, we just talked to you last week”, then they laugh and I cry. All places tell me its very hard to find a 1 bedroom. People stay their until they pass. So what do i do? Anyone, I would be gratefu l for help.

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    1. So sorry you are in this position. Perhaps just keep adding your name to more lists. At your age, you may qualify for many buildings that say “senior” or “elderly” as some start at age 55. Some of the elderly buildings have shorter waiting lists. I hope you find something.

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  2. I am 62yearsold i live right now with my Daughter it is very hard for me i am on SSD it is 577 a mouth try to get a place to live i very stree right now please help me .

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    1. Carolyn, Do you know if you are on SSI or SSDI? SSI is $750 in most states, so something is lowering your check?

      If you can get on Section 8 it will be based on income, so your rent would be very low because your income is so low.

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