Many of our readers ask if it’s possible to get a disability accommodation to move up a housing wait list. Sadly, this is not possible. Happily, there are some other things that are possible.
Twenty five strategies for finding quicker affordable housing:
Call everywhere and ask around. Some agencies just give people a bed for the night with little or no other help. Other agencies have whole programs that can help you transition into permanent, stable housing. It may help to contact everywhere you can and see what they can offer. Where to start looking: Homeless Resources
If You Are At Risk
Even if you are not homeless yet, if you are at risk for becoming homeless, some of these programs may be able to help. For example, if you have an eviction or foreclosure notice, if you are transitioning out of an institution or care facility, or if you are not sure exactly where you will be living in 14 days.
HUD Housing typically has waiting lists, but there’s a trick: The more lists you get on, the better your chances of something coming up more quickly.
Many people do not realize how many different lists exist. If you live in a rural or suburban area, your county may have 10 or more different places you can apply. If you live in or near a big city, there may be 50 or more. How to Find Open Waiting Lists the Easy Way
You Don’t Need a Voucher
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! However, you may need to be able to pay a security deposit. See link above for where to find places to apply.
Don’t just call housing agencies… try calling buildings directly. Karen was told it would take 7 years, but she found a place in just a few months: How I Got Affordable Housing When the Wait Lists Were Closed
No voucher needed. No income required (You may need to pay a security deposit, though). Subsidized apartments. To apply, your household must include at least one person who is physically disabled or a senior or a veteran. Available in various states. We don’t know how long it takes, but they do publish this page that lists: Short Waiting Lists.
The Share Program has immediate openings and over 100 houses in Los Angeles offering shared rooms. Must have SSI or other income and be willing to participate in support groups. No other requirements. No deposits, no background checks, no credit checks, no paperwork and past evictions are OK. Long or short stays. Roommates. “Single family homes in middle class neighborhoods”.
Catholic Worker communities exist throughout the country. These programs are committed to “nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken. You do not need to be Catholic to participate. Some offer housing.
Are “Low Income” Buildings Too Expensive?
There are different types of low income buildings. Some are so expensive that actual low income people can’t live there! Others are open to people even if they have $0 in income.
Learn more: Help! I’m Too Poor for Low Income Housing.
Start Looking: How to Find Super Cheap Housing WITHOUT a Housing Voucher
Is Someone Disabled?
If one or more adults in your household is disabled, look into “disabled or elderly” buildings. Most buildings have wait lists, but wait list time can be shorter than for other kinds of subsidized housing. Mostly 1 or 2 bedrooms. Some do not accept children. How To Find HUD “Elderly” or “Disabled” Apartments
Not a Senior?
If a building says “senior” always call and ask if they accept younger people who are disabled. If only one person is disabled or only one person is a senior: Can My Family Apply for Disability Housing if Only One Person is Disabled?
Dandelion was told it would take three years… She contacted 70 buildings and moved into nice housing in less than six months: Dandelion Gets Nice, Affordable Housing QUICKLY
Is Someone Over 55?
If one or more adults in your household is over 55, look into “elderly” and “senior” buildings. Mostly 1 or 2 bedrooms. Some buildings start at 62, and some start at 55. Wait lists for these buildings is often shorter. How To Find HUD “Elderly” or “Disabled” Apartments
Problems with Evictions, References, Background or Credit?
If you are having difficulty qualifying due to background checks, and these issues were created by your disabilities, in some situations, you can request an accommodation: Background Checks and Credit Checks
Section 8 housing vouchers can make your rent very, very low. But they can also be very, very difficult to get. And can take a very, very long time.
If the waitlists in your area are all closed or take forever, there may be a way you can still get a housing voucher. Here is where you will find 37 Creative Strategies for Getting Section 8
If you have a mental health diagnosis and history of homelessness, many Supportive Housing programs are great. Try contacting homeless resource programs in your area. Also, try Googling the name of your state or city and the words “Supportive Housing” or “Supported Housing.” Here is an example of supportive housing in Virginia. Also inquire at your local Community based mental health centers
Apply Long Distance
Some areas have housing programs with short or no wait lists. If you find one, you can apply and move. If you or your family member are disabled and this makes travel difficult, you can make an accommodation request to apply from home (even if they tell you this is absolutely not allowed ever): Apply by Mail or Email
Ignore “Emergency Vouchers”
You may have noticed a lot of websites telling you that you can apply for “emergency vouchers.” You may have even seen this on the HUD website. You may have also noticed that no agencies in your area will actually offer these vouchers or tell you how to get one. That’s because they don’t really exist. Perhaps at some point in time one person somewhere got one.
Ignore centralized waiting lists
Many areas have a centralized waiting list, where you just apply once and you are put on a lot of different waiting list. Sounds great! But doesn’t work great!
These lists take forever. It’s not bad to get on them, but it could take many years to get housing this way.
Many people do not realize that the centralized waiting list do not include all affordable housing opportunities. For example, in Massachusetts, the centralized waiting list takes 5 to 10 years. Applying directly to a building that is not on the centralized waiting list can take a year or less.
Already On Waiting Lists?
You can see if the list you are on has any preferences, and notify them if your circumstances change and you meet a preference now. For example, if there is a preference for homeless, and you become homeless, let them know. Preferences on Housing Waiting Lists
Already in Affordable Housing?
If you are already in housing but having a bad experience, you may be able to request to transfer to a different apartment in the same building. Or a different building owned by the same landlord or agency. If there is a wait list, you may be able to skip the list: Transferring Apartments
Were You Ever on a Wait List?
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: Get Back Spot on Wait List
Were You Ever in Affordable Housing?
Did You Ever Get Turned Down?
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: Get Back Spot on Wait List and Background Checks and Credit Checks
Peer run respite centers can provide shelter and mental health support for short periods. Usually a week or two. These programs are run by people who have experienced mental health crisis themselves.
Connect with Mental Health System
In some areas, this is a great resource for finding housing: Community based mental health centers
Not available in all areas, but some areas have local nonprofits or social service programs that can assist with your rent where you are already living. It is often one-time or small amounts. See list below and try contacting local housing and social service agencies in your area to ask if there is any one-time or emergency funding available.
Nonprofit and Social Service Agencies
You may wish to try contacting all the local homeless and housing agencies agencies in your area and in surrounding areas. Readers report that services vary widely. It may help to contact everywhere you can and see what they can offer. If you are disabled, call all the places that say “senior” or “elderly” and ask if they help younger disabled people, too. Places you can try:
- Area Agency on Aging
- Eldercare Locator
- Community action agency
- Centers for Independent Living
- Department of Social Services
- Behavioral Health Agencies
If someone is in your household is a veteran and is now homeless (or was previously homeless) you might be eligible for some rent assistance for up to two years. Rent assistance for veterans.
As of March 2020, this program is available in:
- California: Alameda (including Oakland), Contra Costa, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara
- District of Columbia: Washington
- Hawaii: Honolulu
- Illinois: Cook County
- New York: New York City and Bronx, Queens, Kings and Richmond counties
- Washington: Seattle
It may expand in the future. Check with your Homeless Programs Office at your local VA medical center or contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).