How to Find Affordable Housing the Easy Way

Art: Robin Mead. Page Updated: June, 2019

Looking for affordable housing can be complicated and confusing (not to mention exhausting). 

Here’s three different ways to find places to apply for: Easy, Medium and Hard.

You can decide how badly you want housing, how quickly you want housing, and how many spoons you have to give. Pick the way that works for you!

Option One: The Easy Way

🌷 Call your local Housing Authority and ask if they are accepting applications for any of their wait lists. Or you can check their website. Find Your Housing Authority

🌷 There is a 5% chance you will get into good housing in a reasonable time period this way, and a 95% chance you will be disappointed. On to option two….

Option Two: The Medium Way 

🌷 You don’t need to go through a Housing Authority to get nice affordable housing. Many of our readers had their best success by applying directly to buildings instead.

🌷 You also 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 pay a security deposit.  

🌷 Watch out! There are lots of scam sites out there that will try to charge you money to “help” you apply for housing. All the links on this page are to government websites or other legitimate housing sources. (Warning: A few websites below have ads on them. The ads may lead to places that charge a fee. Be careful not to click on any ads, and you will be OK.)

🌷 Don’t rely on centralized waiting lists. Especially in Massachusetts. You may be waiting 5-10 years on those lists. 

🌷 Go to the HUD map. If the HUD map makes your head explode, it may help to learn How the HUD Map WorksYou can also convert the HUD map into a printable list using this special secret trick

🌷 A lot easier to use than the HUD map, but you may not be shown as many options: Affordable Housing Online (Warning: Search feature does not work well in all areas).

🌷 If you live in a rural area (or want to) check the USDA apartment search. Tip: If you want to look in surrounding areas, try typing in just the first three digits in your ZIP Code.

🌷 Make sure to ask the rent. Some places are cheap (if your income is $0, your rent is $0). Other places call themselves “low income” but they are so expensive actual low income people can’t live there! Learn more: Help! I’m Too Poor for Low Income Housing.

🌷 If your household income is below $1500 per month, you can save yourself some time and energy by only focusing on only the very cheapest subsidized housing openings: How to Find Super Cheap Housing WITHOUT a Housing Voucher

🌷 Here’s a Sample Email for Writing Buildings

🌷 And here’s a Script for Calling Buildings

If you find a place you like this way, great! If not, on to option three.

Option Three: The Way for Relentless Troublemakers

Option three is advanced-level for people who are relentless in their pursuit of housing and willing to do whatever it takes. Or for people who are desperate in their need for housing and willing to do whatever it takes. Or for people who just like having a lot of options.

🌷 Here’s where you can find 37 Creative Strategies for Getting Section 8 

🌷 And here a long (long!) list of many more Places You Can Call to Find Affordable Housing

🌷 Plus some ideas for How Can I Get Emergency or Immediate Housing?

🌷 There is no limit to how many places you can apply for. You can look in other counties, or even other states. The wider your range, the more options you have.How to Apply for Affordable Housing in Another State

🌷 If you decide to apply in other areas, here’s some tips you 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 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

Tips & Tricks

🌷 Some places will allow you to apply online or long distance. Some will require you to go in person. If you or someone in your household is disabled, and this makes it too difficult for you to apply in person, you can request a Disability Accommodation to Apply by Mail or Email

If possible, try applying in other areas. Usually you will have to move to this other area for at least 12 months, but sometimes people have gotten around this rule. Other times, people have found that it was worth the move for nice housing.  

🌷 If you get told no, don’t give up. Be like Dandelion. She was told all waiting lists were closed. Guess what happened? Dandelion Finds 30 Open Waiting Lists

Tools for Troublemakers

Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky

Disability Support & Self Advocacy in HUD & Section 8 Housing

Thanks for Reading

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

🌸 Please share this page with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons:

20 thoughts on “How to Find Affordable Housing the Easy Way”

  1. Hi my name is Holly , I’m really in need of housing I was on subsidizing housing three years ago I lost it by moving in with somebody and I was wondering if I can get it back I’m in a bad situation where I need my own place again .. I have Severe mental health problems that i can isolate myself for day … Im Desperate at this point .. I really regret losing my apartment not knowing this was gonna happen if anyone have any advice for me please help me ..


  2. If you don’t want to live in subsidized housing like “public housing” or other housing for very low income people, and you have a Sec 8 or can *almost* afford regular rent, look for “Tax Credit” housing (aka LIHTC–Low Income Housing Tax Credit) buildings. The Tax Credit program gives landlords a tax break if they follow certain rules set by HUD, including only renting to people whose income is below a certain level (60%, 50%, 40%, or 30% of AMI–Area Median Income). Usually all, or most, of the building will be rented to low income people at that income level, but people who have a Sec 8.will also be able to get in. The rents are set by HUD for that area or even zip code, based on the going rate. They will always be *lower* than “Market Rate”, usually by a couple hundred bucks.

    The LIHTC program is administered by a local agency handling your state. They have a list (possibly on their website) of all the apt complexes that are Tax Credit. You’ll be able to peruse your options by going down the list and looking at their websites, seeing where they are on Google Maps, if they are near groceries and buses, etc. The list may not be current, so Google “Tax Credit apartment” to see if there are any others near you.


  3. Hi my name is Ricky I’m looking for a single or one bedroom I am homeless and disabled live in California look for housing in Los Angeles help please


  4. I can barely walk and am disabled and on the streets. Dont know what to do i am on disability and have no money im very worried about this situation i find myself in. I dont even have a blanket. Trying to find a way out of this. Thanks nowhere to go.


    1. Don’t take offense to any of these suggestions, I’ve been there so I know the programs out there can make you jump through hoops. Have you tried social services? Some states have emergency shelters. There is housing assistance if you have a mental (even depression, PTSD, anxiety) or substance abuse. Go to a library with computers and go on and apply to every single waiting list you can, even if it takes a while at least you’ll have something to look forward to. Sign up for their email they send out updates for new waiting lists opening. See how much a small PO box is, I know it’s a little money but it gives you a way to get the mail and an address.


  5. My Name is Charles I’m on SSI I’m 64 years old..I have had a heart attack in 2006 they have put 6 stents in my heart 2015 I needed to have a pacemaker put in..I also suffer from COPD and type 2 diabetes…I live in florida boynton beach at my cousin’s house..I need to find my own place soon I will be homeless….My mom lived in Bayside New York..I loved that building and wish someone could tell me how to get on there list. I’m from new York and no longer have anybody here in florida I was a flight attendant all those who lived here had to move for other jobs.In new york I have cousins who would visit me I’m all alone..Would love to find an apt I can afford and be safe and meet some nice people..If there are places in Boynton Beach that have senior low income rents and transportation to my doctors and to food shop a large studio or a small one bedroom would be wonderful for me…My credit is excellent My back round check is clean nothing on it I have never been in any trouble I’m quite nice friendly and a sense of humor looking for piece of mind and to be safe.


  6. I like this group. I’ve been searching for HUD and Section 8 housing for weeks. I will be opening these links to gain knowledge of what to do and what 3 questions to ask. I need help and I think I’m going to get it if I follow these posts!
    THANK YOU SO MUCH! God Bless! C-


  7. I did this and finally got to the top of the waiting list. I sign my lease Monday. I spent a lot of time on the internet and the phone and I was so sick of it. But it paid off, so hang in there. You can pay attention to the area if you’re familiar with the city (you can also find a way to learn about areas you’re not familiar with, with more searching) and I looked on Google for consumer reviews.


  8. I’m a single mother of 2 young sons. I’ve been on section 8 waiting list 12 yrs. I’m on SSI and get no support from family. I’m desperate to find an apartment but can’t afford by myself. I live in Queens and very expensive. I’m still hoping and praying to hear my section 8 is ready. I only wish to have a home for me and my kids to live and be com fg portable. My heart Cry’s to have to live in my condition. Pray for my family and I the same for yours. Wishing on a star..thank you… Martin family

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you read this and anyone else that may be helped by this. Do NOT ever wait to hear back on a housing list of any kind. Sometimes mistakes are made and you get dropped from the database. If you move or get a new phone and forget to update your contact info with them, they will go right on to the next person on the list. I had a neighbor once who said he waited x years to get into the building. I had gotten in a year earlier and had only been on the list for a couple of years. This was a “new” list and they were going in order, so I’m pretty sure my neighbor had gotten dropped or passed over.

      Call or email and ask what number you are and what number they are currently on. (Even if you have your confirmation letter with the number on it, make them look you up to make sure you are in the database. I once discovered I had been dropped! They said they had mailed a letter and it got returned. I told them I hadn’t moved. I didn’t give my address to the person on the phone, but instead made them tell me what address they had for me. They had transposed my apt #! Then they tried to insist that *I* was the one who made the mistake and they could only change it if I mailed them a “change-of-address”!) Making them look you up in the database is the only way to truly know where you are at and verify if you are still in the running. Be persistent.

      Some Housing Authorities now put the range of numbers they are currently calling on their website. Mine didn’t and I had to beg, cajole, and demand to get a “ball park” estimate of how much longer it would be so that I could plan and start doing some apt searching before my name came up. My local Housing Authority finally told me they only get (or turn over) about 20 Sec 8 vouchers a year (it’s a tiny agency), so based on that I knew I wasn’t going to get called for years. Luckily for me, HUD threw some extra vouchers their way and I got in sooner than expected.

      If you are willing to live somewhere else for one year, apply to other Sec 8 lists that may have shorter wait lists. Once you get a Sec 8, you only have to live in that area for one year and then you can “port out” to anywhere you want, as long as they are taking transfers.


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