Three Magic Questions When Calling Affordable Housing Buildings

Art: Robin Mead


Do You Accept a Younger Person Who is Disabled?

If at least one disabled adult lives in your household… start by calling all the places that are “senior” or “elderly” and ask if they accept younger people who are disabled.

These apartments are usually one bedroom, sometimes two. Will allow other family members, but many don’t allow kids.

Why do you want to apply to a senior building? Our readers report that these buildings are often nicer and faster to get into. See for yourself: Can Affordable Housing Be Nice? Slide Show!


Do you have any apartments that charge 30% of income?

If you do not have a voucher, no matter what rent they tell you always ask: “Do you have any apartments where rent is 30% of income?”

Some buildings have this and some don’t. Sometimes all of the apartments charge 30%, sometimes none of them do, and sometimes it is a mix. There may be a separate waiting list for cheaper apartments that have this special funding. Bizarrely, they may not mention this, unless you ask.

Why do you want an apartment that charges 30% of income? Let’s look at two examples:

Rent example 1: Jasmine’s income is $1,000. She moves into a “low income” apartment that does not charge 30% of income, but instead sets rent by a complex sliding scale formula. For Jasmine’s income bracket, the rent for one bedroom is $500 plus utilities. Jasmine’s rent is $500 

Rent example 2: Willow’s income is also $1,000. She moves into the same building as Jasmine. She lives next door in an identical apartment. However, this apartment sets rent at 30% of income. Her rent is 30% of income = $300. Her utility allowance is $150. Willow’s rent is $150. 


Can you give me an estimate for how long is the wait list is?

Don’t give up if every place say the wait list is really long. Just keep calling.

If you call enough places, eventually you will start to find some they give you an estimate of 1 to 3 years.

If you apply enough places with an estimate of 1 to 3 years, eventually you will find that some of the places overestimated and actually become available sooner.

Why apply so many places? Real life housing search example:

🌷 Tulip calls 50 buildings. 20 answer the first time. 25 answer the second or third time. 5 never answer. 20 don’t have any apartments that charge 30% of income and she doesn’t have a voucher.

🌷 That leaves 25 places. 5 have wait lists that are closed or 3+ years. 5 say seniors only but actually allow younger people. 5 are really senior only and she’s not a senior. 5 only have one bedroom and she needs two.

🌷 That leaves 15 places. 2 she visits and finds unsafe or unhealthy. That leaves 13 places.

🌷 She applies all 13. 1 rejects her application. 5 take 2+ years. 6 take 1-2 years. 2 turn out to be quicker than estimated. 1 opens in 6 months. 1 opens in 4 months. Tulip finds a great place in 4 months

Bonus Question

What’s A Senior?

If you are 55+, call all the senior places and ask what they consider “senior.”

More Tools for Troublemakers

🌷 Sample Email for Writing Affordable Housing Buildings

🌷 Script for Calling Affordable Housing Buildings

🌷 Lots More Questions to Ask

🌷 How to Find Places to Call

Thanks for Reading

🌷 This page is part of the free online guide: Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky

The Sleepy Girl Affordable Housing Survival Guide

🌷 Facebook Group: HUD and Section 8 for People with Disabilities (and family)

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

🌷 Page Updated: 8/1/19

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