How I Got Nice, Affordable Housing QUICKLY

Art: Robin Mead

When Dandelion started looking for low-income housing, many people told her that all the wait lists were closed, or would take five years. Luckily, she didn’t listen. Dandelion went on an epic quest to find housing, found THIRTY open wait lists, applied FIFTEEN places, and got nice, affordable housing in less than a year. Dandelion wanted to share her story to help others:

Dandelion’s Housing Quest

Everyone told me that the waiting lists are all closed and it would take me 5-10 years to get low 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 am in now 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!

I especially asked each place if they ever got noise complaints from people who could hear their neighbors talking, walking, tv, radio, etc. I wanted a really quiet place, so I explained I was disabled and noise triggered my symptoms. Some apartment managers were upfront right away and told me that the walls were thin and there were frequent noise complaints.

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, about half of them accepted households of any age as long as there was at least one adult with a disability. In my area, these were all really nice! You would never even guess they were low income housing! Elderly or disabled apartments

🌷 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 buildings have a mix of different types of apartments with different types of funding that charge different rent. If they tell you the rent, and it seems high always ask: “Do you have any apartments subsidized by HUD?”

🌷 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 or Email

After Applying

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.

Two of the wait lists were for properties and one was for a voucher. I couldn’t believe I was offered a voucher in just four months.

I went and visited the property that was closest to me. It was everything I wanted, so I took it! This was much easier than having to get a voucher and then find a landlord, because of my health. I turned down the voucher.

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

My new place is simple, quiet, safe, clean, comfortable, well-maintained, disability accessible, and nice management. It is a little, sweet one bedroom apartment in a small one-story building. My apartment is in the back where there are trees and birds and flowers and mountains. I rarely see or hear any of my neighbors.

It’s about two miles from a town that has doctors, thrift stores, markets, library, post office, etc, and twenty miles from a city with hospitals. There is also a bookmobile from the library, free transportation to the grocery store, and a little community center I never go to, but some people go and there is bingo and potlucks and yard sales there.

Tools for Troublemakers

Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky

Disability Support & Self Advocacy in HUD & Section 8 Housing

The Sleepy Girl Affordable Housing Survival Guide

Thanks for Reading

🌸 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌸 To get daily updates on helpful disability services, and low income programs, follow us on Facebook: The Sleepy Girl Guide.

🌸 Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. Please share this page with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons:

13 thoughts on “How I Got Nice, Affordable Housing QUICKLY”

  1. Kudos to Dandelion! This is EXACTLY what everyone who needs affordable housing, including homeless, should do. And this was an excellent write-up as well!

    I have lived several years in a tiny subsidized studio apt (considered “Supportive Housing” because they had on-site social workers and a visiting nurse) run by a large, dysfunctional nonprofit agency. Then I pursued other options until I was able to “move up” to a subsidized apt in public housing, run by a huge, dysfunctional Housing Authority. After several years there, my name finally came up on a Sec 8 list elsewhere, and I now finally have a Section 8 and live in a “luxe” senior Tax Credit building where management is at least a bit more professional, a lot less intrusive, and my neighbors are mostly a little bit more functional and behave somewhat better than the ones I had at the other places.

    Personally, I would never jump at the first option and give up a Sec. 8. No matter how nice something seems now, a new manager, a new neighbor, a new building owner…and things can change. Even at my new place, we went through a couple of dark years with a horrible manager who was vindictive and wacko. I’ve lived places that changed how they did maintenance or hiked the rent when the building ownership changed. A *voucher* allows you to move; if the subsidy stays with the apt, you can’t.


  2. While there are two types of Section 8 as sleepygirl laid out in the comments, most people (landlords and tenants) mean the vouchers when they say Sec 8; the other type is just referred to as “subsidized”. There are several types of subsidies that are attached to the apt. As far as I know they are all HUD subsidies of various sorts (except for the USDA one)…some are for senior buildings, others are for “public housing” (owned and managed by a Housing Authority), etc. It really doesn’t matter which program subsidizes the apt, you, the tenant, pay 30% of your Adjusted Gross Income for rent.

    The Sec 8 vouchers, now also known as “Housing Choice Vouchers” (HCV), are considered the “golden ticket” for low income renters. They are usually hard to get, long waits, etc but allow you to move anywhere in the U.S., as long as the Housing Authority in that area is taking in transferred vouchers (they’re usually happy to have them). Some progressive cities have passed laws saying that landlords *must* accept vouchers, although landlords can still wiggle out by charging rent above the allowed voucher amount or claiming it would be too costly to make improvements needed to get approval to be a Sec 8 landlord. In high rent areas, you will likely have to find a Tax Credit building, which has lower rents to begin with, and those rents will be within the limits set by voucher.


  3. I read through this section as I am about to launch a move to a different state with my classic HUD voucher. I also have M.E./CFS, MCS, the entire EI list, or so it seems! In all your comments I did not read how a disabled EI person can find “safe” chemically free housing. This is what I found to be the worst part of living, as apartments are not an option and then you are stuck looking it seems forever. I know HUD allows EI people to have their own houses on the market and I already know it takes months to find a landlord that will take your voucher for a house. I have a house I am renting now, but I have found that it takes months to get that and wears you out looking while you get exposures the entire time with every house you look at. Last time I had to get my state senator involved to push my voucher through HUD in Washington and over ride the state housing authority…it worked, but I had to rent for market rent the entire house to keep it off the market while all tis paperwork went through and that cost me hotel rent and house rent the entire time and ran me out of money. Another problem is the landlords often are not made to do ADA compliance if you are using your classic voucher because the housing authorities are not happy at the high cost of their portion of our rents. My landlady has abused me by not complying and all the housing authority says is to find a new place, too bad! For instance I have a neighbor who is using diesel trucks to bring in dirt to his yard and make it larger and deeper, but when I tried to stop that for even a couple weeks to move, I found only the landlady can get a legal stop work….the renter has no rights to their air space!?? I am now too ill to move and broke with medical uncovered expenses to complete my move (this is for one year now. I am moving to Dallas to work with Dr. who just died last week! I have to drive myself to Dallas, 4200 miles, to do this as I am so allergic to jet fuel I can not fly. In effect, my landlady, by not complying to get the diesel trucks stopped, has lost me my chance to complete my work with Dr. Rea now!!!) while the landlady wants to start eviction process and get me out in one week!!. She will not assist me in stop work on the diesel trucks and I am caught in the middle. The housing authority does not care at all…and I am just stuck. How does a person use this list or what do you do to find “safe’ housing for when I get to Dallas area and begin looking, again???


    1. Hi Catherine,

      I’m sorry to hear the situation you are in.

      I don’t know any real solution for finding safe housing – beyond finding a space that works for you and convincing the landlord to take your voucher.

      It may be possible to get a disability accommodation to get a larger voucher or to rent a house that is above the payment standard. That would make it easier to find a place and give you more options.

      disability accommodations are explained on this page. There is a link at the bottom for a guidebook on hud housing for people with MCS.

      hope this helps 🌷


  4. I don’t understand. You can get a voucher by applying to a property? Don’t you have to go through the housing authority first? I’m missing something here!


    1. There are two kinds of section 8

      1. vouchers
      2. project-based

      For project-based, you do not need a voucher. The apartment automatically comes with section 8. If you leave the apartment, you lose the Section 8 – it is attached to the property not the person.

      Hope this helps.


    2. p.s. this is a really good question because this is VERY confusing.

      There are some properties that ACCEPT housing vouchers. They don’t have Section 8, but if you have a voucher, they will accept it.

      There are other properties that are special buildings already funded by Section 8. They DON’T ACCEPT vouchers.

      And there are some buildings that are a mix.


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