How to Get a Mainstream Housing Voucher

Art: Robin Mead

Mainstream Housing Vouchers often have much shorter wait lists than other voucher programs.

Who Can Apply

These vouchers are only if ONE adult in family is age 18-61 and disabled.

That person should be the main applicant listed first and signing the application as “head of household”. Then any other family members of any age can also be included on the application. Anyone can be head of household, it can be an adult child.

Other Criteria (Sometimes)

Some mainstream vouchers have additional special rules. Some do not. The special rules are:

  • The main person applying needs to be homeless or at risk for homelessness or in a nursing home or at risk for nursing home placement or institutionalization.
  • “At risk for homelessness” can mean many different things. Varies by program.
  • “At risk for nursing home placement” is defined in a lot of different ways too, and anyone in the Medicaid home care program might already have this kind of documentation.
  • Tip: Some applications give misleading information making you think you must be in a nursing home to apply.Β  Read the fine print! This is usually not true. Just being at risk typically qualifies someone.

Where to Find these Vouchers

Mainstream vouchers are released in batches at different times.

Areas That Have Mainstream Vouchers 2019 – current

Areas That Have Mainstream Vouchers 2018 – current

More may be released in future, check:

Calendula Gets a Mainstream Housing Voucher

Calendula had been disabled and languishing on low income housing waiting lists for many years – living in and out of homeless shelters, while using a feeding tube.

Then Calendula took a brave step and applied for housing in Boston, across the country. After getting offered a mainstream Housing Voucher, Calendula took the leap and traveled from Seattle to Boston. In Boston, while searching for a landlord, Calendula stayed at a combination of shelters and air bnb rooms, and ate at local homeless shelters.

“Oh my God! I just got a formal offer on an apartment. I officially am signing a lease and moving into housing with a housing voucher after 7 years of being homeless. πŸ˜²πŸ˜²πŸ˜²πŸ€―πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰ Never give up! I moved across the country from Seattle where I’d lived over 15 years of my life to Boston where I’ve never lived and now I’m housed! 😲”

Update: Calendula has not been happy in Boston and has found it hard to get healthcare there. Luckily, Calendula has a voucher now and can move with it. In nine months, the housing authority will allow a move back to Seattle with the voucher. Calendula says: “It’s been hard, but definitely worth it.”

Update #2: Calendula submitted a reasonable accommodation request to try to move sooner than nine months. Stay tuned!

Reader’s Tips

Reader’s report that when they contacted housing authorities that had been awarded mainstream vouchers, the person they spoke or wrote with had no clue what they were. You may need to be persistent until you find the person who actually knows about mainstream vouchers and can tell you when the wait list will open to apply.

After a housing authority is given these vouchers, it may take 6-12 months to actually open wait list.

Some housing authorities will not open their wait list for these vouchers. They will just select from people already on the list who are disabled. Other programs will make a special wait list opening just so people can apply for the mainstream vouchers.

Some Housing Authorities open the list for these vouchers for just one day, or for just a few hours.

If you find out when wait list opens and you are first to apply, it might be very quick!!Β 


HUD guidelines for Mainstream Vouchers:

Click to access Mainstream_PIH-2020-01.pdf

Learn More

This page is part of the free online guide:Β  The Sleepy Girl Affordable Housing Survival Guide

Facebook Group: HUD and Section 8 Disabled Residents & Family Members

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

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:


5 thoughts on “How to Get a Mainstream Housing Voucher”

  1. Did you have to receive SSI for the MV? I am attempting to apply and get a case worker, but she is saying that I may not qualify because I don’t receive SSI. Also, my disability is not physical, but mental health based, is that not an option either? I’m getting the run around from everyone.


    1. I believe there is another way to apply. It may involve a form signed by a doctor. I would start by bringing a letter from your doctor stating that you are disabled. Submit that and then see if they have more forms for you.


  2. Mainstream vouchers are often initiated by referral from an organization like a shelter or a behavioral health org, for example.

    The initial contact point for homeless or near homeless is called
    Coordinated Entry.

    When referred to a Coordinated Entry appontment one is given a vulnerability index test the score from which determines your eligibility and placement on the waitlist for a Mainstream Voucher.

    Mainstream Vouchers are maintained on a separate waitlist from other types of vouchers.


  3. I was hoping to get info about getting a voucher for section8. What I found is apparently I’m not eligible because I will be age 64 near the end of 2020. I’m feeling discriminated against because of my age.


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