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’s hard to get in. If you’ve been told all the waiting lists are closed, or they all take forever, don’t give up hope.
Many of our readers were told it would take 3 years or 5 years or 10 years to get affordable housing, but they discovered that if they were very persistent they could actually get into nice affordable housing in a year or less. Sometimes six months or less.
Here’s a long list of strategies for finding affordable housing no matter how many times you are told “no”:
LEARN A LITTLE ABOUT AFFORDABLE HOUSING
🌷 If you have not already done so, you may wish to learn a little about How Section 8 Works & What Kind of Section 8 is Best for You
🌷 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 start out by just finding some wait lists and applying: How to Find Open Waiting Lists The Easy Way
🌷 If things don’t work out, you can always come back and read the rest of this page!
BE PREPARED TO BE PERSISTENT. VERY PERSISTENT.
Don’t give up if someone tells you wait lists are closed. Don’t give up if someone tells you there is only one place to apply. Don’t give up if no one answers the phone or returns your calls. Don’t give up if you think you have already tried everywhere. Basically, don’t give up.
IF A WAIT LIST IS CLOSED
- Look for other open wait lists in your area. Most big cities have 50+ different wait lists where you can apply. Small cities will usually have 10+ places you can apply.
- If there is a specific building or specific housing assistance program you really want, call back once per month and ask if they know when they wait list will open. Some places only open one day per year! Or one day every three years!
- Also, bookmark the front page or announcements page of their website, and check it once per week to see if there are any notices Warning: Some housing programs do not update their website so you when the wait list opens, it is not always listed there.
START MAKING 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 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
YOU DON’T NEED A VOUCHER
You can apply for vouchers and also apply directly to buildings.
You don’t need a voucher to get super cheap housing. Many buildings come with their own funding. You can apply even if your income is $0! Wait lists for buildings are often much shorter than vouchers.
Low income buildings can vary a lot… some of our readers have found very nice buildings where they were very happy.
CONTACT BUILDINGS DIRECTLY
Forget agencies. Just call the buildings directly. It works!
Karen was told Section 8 was closed for 7 years. She got nice affordable housing in a few months Karen Finds Housing When the Wait Lists Are Closed
ADD MORE LOCATIONS
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 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.
🌸 If you decide to apply in other areas, here’s some tipsy need to know. There’s a chance you might not even have to move to the other area! Finding Housing Quickly By Applying Elsewhere
IF SOMEONE IS 55+
🌷 Try calling all “elderly” and “senior” buildings. Some places consider “elderly” to start at age 55+
🌷 As long as ONE adult is 55+ your family may be eligible
🌷 Some do not accept children under 18
IF YOU ARE DISABLED
🌷 Try calling all “elderly” and “senior” buildings.
🌷 Ask if they accept younger people with disabilities. Many do!
🌷 Some of buildings will accept any family that has ONE adult with disabilities who is age 18+.
🌷 Some don’t accept children. Some are just mental disabilities, or just physical/wheelchair disability.
POOF! YOU’RE A FAMILY!
🌷 Don’t be scared off by housing listed as “family” or “multi family”. This is just a general HUD category
🌷 You do not need to have children to be considered a family.
🌷 In fact, you do not need to have anyone else to be considered a family. One person can be a family and can apply.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF “PROJECT BASED” HOUSING
🌷 Some of our readers feel nervous when they see the word “project-based” because the word “project” or “projects” has a stigma.
🌷 Don’t let that scare you off. The term project-based is just a HUD housing term to describe a certain kind of funding.
🌷 Buildings vary, but there are many project-based properties and buildings that are nice, comfortable, clean and safe.
🌷 See for yourself: Can Affordable Housing Be Nice? (See for yourself)
IF YOUR FAMILY INCLUDES DISABLED & NON-DISABLED
🌷 Many housing programs for disabled people or seniors don’t require that everyone be disabled.
🌷 Some of programs will accept any family that has ONE person with disabilities. Or any family that has ONE senior. Usually, that person person needs to be age 18+.
🌷 There are a few special rules for this: Can My Family Apply for Disability Housing if Only One Person is Disabled?
IF YOU ARE NOT APPROVED FOR DISABILITY
🌷 If you see any programs that are for people with disabilities, you can still apply.
🌷 You do not need to be receiving Social Security disability benefits to be eligible.
🌷 You can ask the housing program for a form for your doctor to fill out to confirm that you are disabled. Here is the criteria: Am I “Elderly” or “Disabled”?
IF THEY SAY YOU ARE TOO POOR
If you call buildings and they have a minimum income and tell you that you are “too poor for low income housing” don’t be discouraged.
Just keep calling til you find some of the good buildings that have better funding.
IF THE RENT IS TOO HIGH
Ask this question: “Do you have any apartments that charge 30% of income?”
If they don’t know what you are talking about, hang up and call the next place on the list.
If they say yes, ask how you can get on the wait list for those apartments.
You can also look for different buildings. Some “low income buildings” and “affordable housing” buildings are really expensive. Others will be actually affordable. Learn more about the Five Different Types of Affordable Housing Buildings
Pro Tip: Some buildings have something called 30% AMI. This is a completely different thing and not what you want. You want a building that charges rent based on 30% of your income not 30% AMI.
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.
START A NEW LIFE
Some affordable housing buildings are really nice. If you find one you love that is in a new area, you may find it worth it to take the leap.
Don’t just take our word for it, see for yourself: Can Affordable Housing Be Nice?
sometimes there are ways to find another area cookout even having to move to that place. Take a look to learn more: Can I Apply for Section 8 if I Live in Another State?
DOUBLE CHECK WEBSITES
🌸 Many housing authorities will list their open waiting lists online
🌸 It is helpful to check EVERY PAGE. Or call and talk to someone at the housing authority to ask about everything you can apply for. Some housing authorities have several different wait lists to apply for and you need to submit multiple applications. For example, you might need to apply separately for each building.
Your list probably has a mix of housing authorities and buildings.
🌸 Housing Authorities are agencies that may own multiple buildings and also give out vouchers. You will probably talk to whoever answers phones at the front desk. You can ask them what wait lists are open now, what might open in the future, and when it might open.
🌸 Buildings are individual buildings with subsidized apartments. You can call the building itself and you will probably talk to the property manager who works there. Here’s a little Script for Calling Affordable Housing Buildings
🌸 More things you can ask Questions to Ask When Calling Landlords and Housing Authorities
🌷 Call or write EVERYWHERE.
🌷 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 answers the main number, look for a number for the housing manager
🌷 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.
OR EMAIL INSTEAD
🌷 If phone is difficult for you, you can try email instead.
🌷 Some places do not respond to email. If this happens, you can try again and in the subject line write “second request” and in the email write “This is my second request. I did not receive a response last time. Thank you.” Then third request, then fourth…
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
Some “low income” buildings are so expensive that actual low income people can’t live there!
Don’t worry if this happens. Ask them if they have any subsidized apartments that charge 30% of income.
If not, just keep calling the next on your list. Eventually you will find some with subsidized apartments.
Some pictures and examples of the different types of buildings: Help! I’m Too Poor for Low Income Housing.
Where to find low income buildings for actual low income people: How to Find Super Cheap Housing WITHOUT a Housing Voucher
Learn more about how different types of buildings work, and what is good and bad about each kind: Five Different Types of Affordable Housing Buildings
🌸 In some area, the local public mental health system has their own housing vouchers and housing programs. Community based mental health centers
🌸 Most also have caseworkers that can help you find housing.
🌸 Call and ask how you can speak to the person in charge of housing. That person will have the most information.
🌸 If you become a client of the agency, you may also be eligible for a caseworker who can help you fill out applications and find housing.
🌸 The more places you apply, the better your chances
🌸 For reasons you can’t predict, some places may simply not work out. It’s good to have options!
🌸 Sometimes buildings open sooner than expected. If you are on 5-10 waitlists that are each 1-3 years, there’s a reasonably good chance at least one may open in less than a year.
BE FIRST TO MARKET
Some housing programs are done by lottery (doesn’t matter what day you apply).
Others are first come first serve, if you get their two hours late, you may add a year to your wait list time! Try to apply the first minute of the first day the list opens.
If applying in person, arrive early and wait in line.
If applying online, create an online account a few days before. Then get to your computer the moment the list opens. Have all your ID documents handy, just in case they have a question.
If requesting an accommodation to apply long distance, request to get application when or before the list opens, and request to be able to fax/email your application in the moment the list opens. (Not by snail mail). Have copies of your id cards ready, and scanned in if needed to include.
GET YOUR SPOT BACK
If you were ever on a list or tried to apply in the past, but lost your spot, you may be able to get your spot back. Even if years have passed! In fact, your spot may be the top of the list by now! Learn more:
If you had a voucher or subsidized housing in the past and lost it, in some situations, you may be able to get it back:
If you applied to a housing program in the past and got turned down, in some situations, you can appeal this decision and get your spot back:
APPLY LONG DISTANCE
🌸 Some places have online applications and some do not.
🌸 If you or your family member are disabled and this makes travel difficult, you can make a disability accommodation request to apply from home (even if they tell you this is absolutely not allowed ever): Apply by Mail or Email
🌷 You can sometimes find reviews of buildings from other tenants by typing the name and/or street address into both google and facebook.
🌷 Instant street view can sometimes show you the house or neighborhood.
🌷 If a place doesn’t look nice online, you can always apply anyway and decide later. It doesn’t hurt to have options and sometimes the photos online are very misleading.
MOVE AND RETURN
It’s possible to get a voucher in another area and then move back to your area (with your new voucher!) in one year:
🌸 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
🌸 Chrysanthemum tried this approach and got into affordable housing in 3 months! In one year, she is planning to return to her area. Chrysanthemum Gets Bad News and Good News
REQUEST TO SKIP THE TWELVE MONTHS
🌸 If someone in your household is disabled, in some situations you maybe able to request to transfer the voucher to your area immediately. This request is not always successful, but you can try. Guide to Porting New Vouchers Without Waiting 12 Months
🌷 Here is where you can find more sample letters, instructions, and policies to help you do this: Applying Elsewhere and Moving a Voucher to You
IMMEDIATE OR EMERGENCY HOUSING
If you are in need of emergency or immediate housing: How Can I Get Emergency or Immediate Housing?
GET HELP / HELP YOURSELF
Some of our readers report they were able to find local caseworkers for social workers who assisted them with filling out housing applications.
Readers report that this can be a great help. However, most readers found that there were more housing opportunities that their Social Worker did not know about. Learn more about: Where Can I Find a Case Worker or Advocate to Help Me With Housing?
Some people had good success doing their own research, then when they found a place they liked, asking the Social Worker to help them apply. How to Get a Social Worker
BOOKMARK & KEEP CHECKING
You can ask each housing authority how you can be notified when the lists open. Some have email notifications and some do not. Many (but not all) make announcements on the front page of their website.
Bookmark the front page of all housing authorities in your area and check it once a week for announcements. Some lists only open for ONE DAY!
DID YOU GET EVERYTHING?
Some housing programs have five different waiting lists! And you have to fill out a different application for each one!
If you think you are on a waiting list already, double check that their aren’t more lists to apply for.
DON’T BE FOOLED BY CENTRALIZED WAITING LISTS
For people in Massachusetts (may apply other places too)
Some people are told they can just apply one place and this will make them eligible everywhere.
Sort of true. A central wait list may get you in a lot of places, but there’s a good chance there are more buildings that don’t use that list. Keep looking
🌸 Other agencies that sometimes have housing assistance: Domestic violence programs, disability centers, and homeless agencies.
🌸 If you wish to reach out to other agencies, 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.
🌸 You can also 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.
ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT ANIMALS
If you are disabled and have an assistance animal or emotional support animal, you may still be able to apply to buildings with a policy of no pets: Requests for Assistance Animals
CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS
Policies are different for every program and building. Many have a time period for certain convictions. For example, 3 years or 5 years or 7 years.
If you are disabled, in some situations you can still apply to a building or housing program even if you don’t meet their background check policy: Exceptions to Background Checks
EVICTIONS AND CREDIT CHECKS
If you are disabled, in some situations you can still apply to a building or housing program even if you don’t meet their eviction and credit check policy: Exceptions for Credit Checks
Bonus Ideas Number 38
🌷 Sign up to get notified of open wait lists: Affordable Housing Email Alerts. Tip: This is a great resource, but will only show you a small selection of openings. Not all openings are listed here.
🌷 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.
Bonus Idea Number 39
Check out Mainstream Vouchers. Sometimes the wait list can be short!
Your household must have at least one disabled person age 18-61.
Bonus Idea Number 40
Got Too Many People?
Some “elderly” or “disabled” buildings only offer one bedroom apartments, or one and two bedrooms.
If more than one person in the household is “elderly” or “disabled”, you can apply separately. You can live next door!
Elderly = Over 62 some places. Over 55 some places.
Bonus Idea Number 41
If your long-term goal is to get a Voucher, you may be able to move into a subsidized apartment now, and get it voucher in the future. It is not always possible, but some of our leaders have done it. Here’s how: How to Convert an Apartment into a Voucher
Did you try looking into low income buildings only to discover that the rent was too high? Or they wouldn’t even consider you because you are too poor? Help! I’m Too Poor for Low Income Housing
Don’t give up! Dandelion was told all the wait lists were closed, here’s what happened: Dandelion Finds 30 Open Waiting Lists
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)
🌸 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 2020. 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: