The Section 8 housing assistance program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, provides financial assistance to low-income families that are struggling with paying rent.
In many situations, families with low incomes cannot afford decent housing and usually have to live in poorly maintained rental units. They often live in unsanitary conditions and in dangerous locations.
Therefore, to help combat this, housing vouchers are provided to qualifying individuals or families so that they can afford rent in a decent home and neighborhood.
To receive this assistance, applicants must complete a thorough application process and be deemed eligible by the public housing authority (PHA) in the area. Once the eligibility requirements are met, the applicants are then put on a waiting list before they are able to obtain the benefits.
These waiting lists exist because of how in-demand the assistance is. It is also important to note that some public housing agencies are forced to close their waitlists because of the vast number of applications that they already have and must process. To learn more about how long these waitlists can be, read the sections below.
The wait times are generally especially long in large cities that have a higher-than-average need for assistance. In some cases, the waiting times can even reach up to 10 years in some parts of the United States. When there are long wait times, families may be required to stay in a rental unit in the location that was issued on the voucher for at least one year before moving to a different home in a different location.
Additionally, the waiting list process is different for each public housing authority in each area. Some of the PHA’s will offer the option to apply for Section 8 housing online, while others only allow in-person applications.
If a list reopens, there will be a large number of applications that get submitted, although not all of them will be approved and placed on the waiting list. This is due to many applicants not meeting eligibility requirements and the fact that most PHA’s use a lottery drawing to select the applications that get added to the waiting list.
Only a certain number of applications can be accepted and put on the waitlist in a given time frame. Therefore, after the maximum amount of applications are accepted and added to the waitlist, the PHA will close the waiting list for an unspecified amount of time.
Even families that have been accepted and added to the waitlist will not be immediately served. They may remain on the waiting list for months or possibly years before they reach the top and receive their vouchers.
Once applicants have reached the top of the waitlist, they will be notified by the PHA. Their situation will then be reassessed in order to determine if they still meet the eligibility requirements for income, citizenship and more. If the family still qualifies for the assistance, Section 8 housing vouchers will be provided and the recipient can then search for decent housing.
Note: Even if a waitlist is exceptionally long in a particular area, it is still important to apply if you qualify for the assistance. Wait times can change at any time, and applicants may receive assistance sooner than originally anticipated.
Because the Section 8 housing assistance program is one of the most popular federal assistance programs in the United States, there are far more applications than funds available.
Therefore, many PHA’s are forced to close their waiting lists and refuse new applications in order to process the existing applications and help the families already on the list. The waiting lists may close if the state public housing authorities are unable to provide assistance to all applicants.
The opening and closing of waitlists are at the public housing authority’s discretion, and waitlists can be opened or closed at any time for an unspecified amount of time. The waitlists are open and close according to the demand in the area for assistance.
The list may be closed for a few months or closed for years or indefinitely. For instance, the Section 8 waiting list has been closed since 2009 in the state of New York. This is largely because of the size of the state and the overwhelming number of interested applicants.
In smaller counties and rural areas where there is not as much demand, the waiting lists may stay open longer and reopen more frequently.
It is important that applicants are aware of the area’s current wait times and whether or not the waitlists are officially open before applying. Applicants can check on this information by completing a quick online search to see which states, counties or cities have open waiting lists, and which areas have waiting lists that may open soon.
For instance, Indiana has an open Section 8 housing waitlist because the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority recently decided to open for applications indefinitely. In addition, other open waiting lists may be found in Columbus, Ohio; in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the entire state of Montana and many other locations.
Currently closed waiting lists include those found in the states of Tennessee, Hawaii and Michigan. Keep in mind that these openings and closings are subject to change at any time, so it is necessary to continually check the area to see if anything opens up.
If a waitlist does reopen, it is important to begin the application process quickly so that an application can be filed before the probable closure of the list. Ensure that all applications are complete and accurate so that no issues or delays are anticipated.