Section 8 Secrets for People with Disabilities

Art: Robin Mead

Many people with disabilities don’t realize that there are special policies that can help improve their housing (and their lives). It’s a secret!

Finding Housing

Here’s where you can learn all about how to apply for housing (even when you are told the wait lists are closed!). Section 8 Guide For the Disabled and Plucky.

If you are already on Section 8, here’s where you can find all kinds of helpful tips and tricks to make your life easier: The Sleepy Girl Affordable Housing Survival Guide

HUD also offers special apartments for people who are “elderly” or “disabled.” You don’t have to be both. Just one. Many of our readers have found nice, safe, inexpensive, disability-accessible apartments this way. Take a look: How to Find Yourself a Nice, Affordable HUD Apartment.

Requesting Accommodations

If you are disabled, or someone in your household is disabled, you can make a special request called a “disability accommodation” or “reasonable accommodation” that can help you find and keep affordable housing that meets your needs. Common requests include: extra bedrooms, higher vouchers, extended deadlines, reinstatement on waiting lists, and exceptions to HUD policies.

Never (ever!) give up if you are told “no” when you make a request. Always make your request in writing and get a written decision. Here’s how: How to Request Disability Accommodations. Below is a long list of common accommodations:

Getting Excused From Attending Meetings

If you are unable to attend in-person meetings because of your disability, you can request a disability accommodation to handle your paperwork by mail or email.

Whenever an agency told me I had to go there in person, I explained that I was homebound and requested a disability accommodation. I never once had to go to the Housing Authority building. Dandelion

Help with Completing Paperwork

If you have difficulty with paperwork due to your disability, you can request additional assistance during applications and re-certifications. For example: Communicating by email instead of telephone, receiving materials in braille, extending paperwork deadlines, or getting a voucher reinstated if your paperwork was late or incomplete for disability-related reasons.

Basil was bedridden and unable to move to a new apartment when he got approved for a voucher. He requested to keep his place at the top of the waiting list until he was medically cleared as well enough to move – Basil’s Story

Additional Bedrooms 

If you have a disability-related reason for needing an extra bedroom, you may be able to move to a larger apartment, with no change to the amount of rent you pay. How to Request Extra Bedrooms.

My mom had a near-fatal car accident. When she returned from the rehab facility, her doctor said she needed a separate bedroom just for her physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other equipment for training, conditioning, and doing all her exercises. HUD granted her an additional bedroom – Bougainvillea 

Live In Aides

If you are in need of a live-in aide, you can request an aide to live with you. Your aide can be paid or unpaid and it can be the person you choose (with some exceptions). Your aide’s income will not be included in rent calculations  How to Have a Live-In Aide in Affordable Housing

Jane lives with her friend Sally, who serves as her aide. Jane gets the help she needs to live in the apartment of her choice, and stay out of a nursing home. Sally gets free rent. – Meet Jane and Sally

Live In Aide Bedroom

You can also request an extra bedroom or larger voucher to accommodate your aide. How Rent and Bedrooms Work if You Have a Live in Aide

Breaking Leases 

If you live in public HUD housing, you may be able to request an accommodation to break your lease early. This request would be made to your landlord.

I’m getting out of my lease months early because the apartment is making me sicker. Jumping through loopholes is absolutely exhausting, but I’ve been lucky to have decent people working with me. – Tulip

Changing Apartments 

Many HUD properties will not allow you to switch to a different apartment. However, if you need to change for a medical or disability-related reason, you may be able to request a disability accommodation. In addition, if you live in publicly-funded housing and a disability-accessible apartment becomes available on the property where you live, you should be given first priority, over people on the waiting list, according to this HUD regulation. This request would be made to your landlord.

I needed an accessible unit but they told me no units were available. One day I drove past an accessible unit and saw that it was empty. The housing agency Director attempted to deny me and even guilt me. After that, I called the HUD regional office and the housing agency was basically forced to give me the place. – Delphinium


You can request to your landlord a a disability accommodation request to have something in your apartment or building modified or renovated based on your disability needs. For public housing, they may be required to pay for the modification. If you have a private landlord, you may be need to find a way to pay for the modification, and you may be responsible for undoing any changes before you leave. Check out: How to Pay for Home Modifications. This request would be made to your landlord.

I requested to remove the carpet before I moved in. I submitted a doctor’s note explaining that this was needed due to my allergies/pulmonary problems. They put in a nice fake hardwood floor. The Housing Authority owns the building and paid for the flooring. – Basil


You may be able to request a closer or more accessible parking space. This request would be made to your landlord.

I requested for our housing association to reassign parking spots to give us one in front of our place. They fought it at first by saying the spots were assigned to specific units. But the ADA trumps assigned parking, and they renumbered two spots! – Delphinium

Emotional Support Animals

If you have a service animal or emotional support animal, you can include their pet food, vet bills, and other expenses as part of your medical expenses. Also: In most cases, a landlord who does not accept pets will still be required to accept your Emotional Support Animal. How to Get an Emotional Support Animal

Moving to a New Area (Housing Vouchers Only)

You may be able to keep your voucher if you move to a new city, county or state. This is called Porting. You do not need to be disabled to port, but in some situations, disability accommodations can make porting easier. How to Port

Daisy was approved for a voucher, but she lived in a different city. Her child required special medical services only available in the new city. She presented a doctor’s letter along with her written accommodation request to immediately transfer her voucher to her current location, and this was approved.

Renting from a Family Member (Housing Vouchers Only)

In general, HUD does not allow you to rent a place owned by a family member. However, in certain situations, you can request an accommodation to rent from family. How to Make a Request to Rent from a Family Member

I’ve been able to rent the apartment attached to my daughter’s home. My doctor sent a note saying it was medically necessary to live close to her for help. – Camellia

Extended Time To Find a Landlord (Housing Vouchers Only)

Housing Authorities have deadlines for how much time you are allowed to find housing. If you need more time due to your disability, you can make a disability accommodation request for more time.

I got a deadline extension on my voucher for almost a whole year (ten months). I contacted: my local Housing Authority, the Executive Director at my Housing Authority, the lawyer at my Housing Authority, my regional HUD office, the HUD field office, and my Senator. At first, the Housing Authority extended it for 60 more days. Then it turned into every month. – Ayanna Asante

Larger Vouchers / Above Payment Standards (Housing Vouchers)

If you are unable to find a place that meets your disability needs, you may be able to request a larger voucher that would allow you to rent a suitable place. Learn more about how to Request an Accommodation to Raise Your Voucher

My son was approved for a Section 8 Voucher. We found an apartment that was the best choice for him, but it was more than $300 above the payment standard. Margaret

Larger Voucher / Additional Bedrooms (Housing Vouchers)

There are three common reasons why people request extra bedrooms as a disability accommodation: Extra bedroom for storing medical equipment; Separate bedrooms for a disabled child or adult; And additional bedroom for a live-in aide. How to Request Extra Bedrooms. If your request is granted your voucher amount raises. Roughly $200, depending on area. The amount of rent you pay does not change.

I was trying to increase my voucher to get an extra bedroom for my son. When I asked verbally, they told me there was no funding and it was not possible, but I applied anyway.  The note from my son’s neurologist and my own note helped me get me approved. – Margaret Irwin

More Examples of Accommodations

Examples of other disability accommodations:

  • exceptions to guest policies
  • allowing a tenant to move to a more suitable unit when one becomes available
  • exceptions to credit or criminal background policies
  • having a voucher reinstated
  • getting back on the waiting list after not responding to paperwork
  • exceptions to policy on being away from your apartment
  • other problems that arose due to your disabilities

Be Creative

Basil got to the top of the Section 8 waiting list, but he was too sick to move. There were no policies to help his situation, so he came up with his own solution: Basil Gets to the Top of the Section 8 Waiting List… And Stays There


Some Housing Authorities are participating in a new program called Moving to Work. If you are in a Moving to Work Housing Authority, some of the rules on this page may be different.

Other Policies That Can Help People with Disabilities

Can’t use your voucher because the rent is too high? If you are unable to find a place to rent within your payment standard, you may have a few options: How to Use Your Housing Voucher When the Rent is Too High

Special Rules That Can Lower Your Monthly Payment – There are many additional HUD policies that can lower the amount of rent you pay. Many of these policies specifically apply to people with disabilities. Examples include: Medical expenses, health expenses, PASS plans, intermittent income, and more. How to Calculate (and sometimes lower) Rent in HUD Housing

Learn More

Section 8 Disability Accommodations for Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Where to Find HUD Reasonable Accommodation Policies

How to Respond if Your Disability Accommodation is Denied

Technical Assistance Guide to Reasonable Accommodations

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

More Facebook Groups: Housing for People with Disabilities or Chronic Illness

Updated 2019. 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: