Artwork: Robin Mead
Writing: Guest Post by Dandelion
Everyone told me that the waiting lists are all closed and it would take me 5-10 years to get low income affordable housing.
But it was not true. It did not take me ten years. Or five years. Or one year. It took six months.
I was in a bad situation and really desperate to find a place to live, so I decided to just try everything no matter how many places turned me down.
It was not easy to do. But it was worth it. The apartment I found is nice, clean, safe, well-maintained, quiet, disability accessible, and very affordable.
Finding Places to Apply For
I have difficulty making phone calls, and I am sometimes too sick to sit up and fill out forms, so a friend helped me.
We called 70 different buildings and agencies. Some of them didn’t answer the phone or return calls, so we had to try many times. We made more than 200 calls, and filled out so much paperwork I could not believe it.
Here is where we found a long, long list of Places to Call When You are Looking for Affordable Housing.
How We Called
We knew from the very beginning that most people would tell us there was no hope, so when that happened, I was not upset or disappointed. If I got disappointed each time I was told “no,” the whole thing would have been soul-crushing. I told myself that the “no’s” are just part of the process, and we ignored them.
Along the way, we discovered that there are many different ways to get on Section 8. Here’s some examples of times we were told “no” but figured out how to get on a waiting list anyway! Dandelion Finds Thirty Waiting Lists
Deciding Where to Apply
We found a total of over 30 places with open waiting lists, but I did not apply everywhere. I applied to 15 different places.
Some places were too far away or too expensive, and some I found some really bad comments about from tenants, so I did not apply.
Other places I thought “I will probably never actually live here,” but I was desperate, so I decided to apply anyway because I wanted as many options as possible. It does not hurt to apply because you can always turn it down!
I was not able to visit places in person, but we looked up each place on Google street view and also searched the address on Google images and also searched the name of the building on Google and google images and Facebook. I also called and talked to the housing manager. Visiting would have been better, but I did find out quite a bit!
These are some of the questions we asked to housing managers and agencies: Questions About Housing Waiting Lists
Where We Applied
🌷 I mostly applied directly to buildings, not to Housing Authorities.
🌷 My favorite place to apply was “elderly properties” – even though they said seniors only, nearly all of them accepted younger people with disabilities if you called and asked. In my area, these were all really nice! You would never even guess they were low income housing! Elderly or disabled apartments sometimes have some or all apartments with Section 8, so you do not need a voucher to get cheap rent.
🌷 I applied for some “Section 8 multi family properties”. I found these on the HUD map. These are buildings all low income people can apply to. Even though it says “family” single people can apply. You do not need a voucher. In my area some of these were not that nice or were loud. Hint: Some times they have some Section 8 apartments and some other apartments. If they tell you the rent, always ask: “Do you have any subsidized apartments?”
🌷 I also applied for Housing Vouchers at Housing Authorities. At first, everyone told me that all the housing vouchers were closed and there was no way to even get on the waiting list. Not true! We kept calling and eventually I got on four different waiting lists for vouchers.
🌷 I also looked into public housing. These are buildings owned by Housing Authorities. I did wind up applying, because I’ve heard too many bad stories, but they do have cheap housing that way and may be good option in some cases.
🌷 We also found several USDA Housing apartments that looked nice in the photos. They were all in rural areas, so too far for me, but I think would be good for other people.
How We Applied
I was not able to apply in person, so I did all applications by mail or email. It did take longer this way and I needed help from a friend because there was a lot of paperwork, printing and mailing.
Most places had no problem taking an application by mail, I just said “Due to my disability, I cannot come in person. Can I please receive the application by mail or email.”
A few places did not want to do this, so I had a short letter from my doctor stating that traveling to their office would worsen my disability symptoms and requesting an accommodation to apply by mail, phone, and email.
After applying, I emailed and asked for written confirmation that I was on the list. A few months later, I called each place to check in. Good thing I called, because one place never added me to the list! I had written confirmation, so was able to get back on in my original spot.
I also kept up a list of everywhere we had called with a closed waiting list. Each place we called, we had asked them: when their waiting list might open, how long ago it was last open, and about how often it usually opens. Most places would not release specifics, but gave me some info that was still generally helpful.
I kept this information so that I could keep calling back each of these places until something opened. As it turned out, I haven’t needed to do this, but if you are in an area with less opportunity, it’s might be helpful to keep calling back every month or every other month any places that seem like possibilities.
How Things Turned Out
Four months after applying… We got three different phone calls from three different agencies! I came up on all three waiting lists at once.
Now I had a new problem! I actually had to choose where to live. All three were Section 8, so the rent would be the same no matter what.
I wasn’t well enough to visit all three places, so I just visited the one closest to me. It was everything I wanted, so I took it!
Although I got to the top of the waiting list in four months, there was still a lot more paperwork and this took more time. The whole process (from when I first started looking to when I actually moved in) took a little over six months.
My new place is simple, quiet, safe, clean, comfortable, well-maintained, disability accessible, pretty location, and nice management. My rent is lower than it has ever been before. I’ve been very happy.
How Section 8 works: Guide to Section 8
For Section 8 housing, the rent including utilities is 30% of income. There are some special exceptions that make rent lower than 30% some times: How to Calculate Rent
Updated February 2019. 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: