Many seniors regularly check waiting list status for Section 8 assistance without being fully aware of how funding decisions are made, how their status is determined or why it might change over time. Comprehensive information about Section 8 waiting lists is available in every Public Housing Agency’s (PHA) administrative plan, including the agencies’ policies, procedures and preferential funding criteria in the common event that demand for housing assistance exceeds the availability of program funding. A Section 8 housing program application waiting list is established whenever a PHA has more qualifying applicants than it has funding to serve. In some locations, Section 8 is not the only low income housing waiting list a PHA maintains. PHAs that administer multiple local, state or federally funded housing assistance programs may combine their wait lists, cross-list qualifying applicants or maintain separate lists at their discretion and in accordance with the needs and characteristics of the populations they serve. Management of these lists are subject to complex factors and considerations, but nearly all PHAs allow wait-listed applicants to check their status whenever they wish.
Information About Section 8 Housing Waiting List Admissions
A senior’s admission to and positions on a Section 8 waiting list is governed by several sets of regulations and policy guidelines at federal and local levels. Elderly applicants typically receive higher priority for placement on a low-income housing waiting list if they are considered part of an at-risk group such as victims of domestic violence or individuals experiencing homelessness.
Section 8 waiting list guidelines also include extensive prohibitions against discrimination. Low-income housing waiting lists are not permitted to discriminate on, among other things, the grounds of:
- Federally protected characteristics such as race, color and religion.
- Family composition (i.e. the presence of children or unwed partners).
- Applicant’s participation in recommended programming (e.g. self-sufficiency programs).
By law, information about Section 8 waiting lists must be provided in full in a PHA’s administrative plan, which includes all criteria for legally permissible preferential funding factors established by HUD or selected by the PHA with HUD’s approval in response to local needs and conditions. Neither general spots on Section 8 housing waiting lists nor specific positions on such lists are the guaranteed right of any applicant according to federal law. However, eligible seniors do have the right to bring suit against a PHA if they feel it is in violation of HUD-mandated federal program requirements or its anti-discrimination prohibitions.
When will the Section 8 waiting lists open? The answer to the common question will not be listed in the plan outline but may be obtained by contacting the local PHA by mail, by phone or by email. For comprehensive information about the requirements to be placed on a Section 8 waiting list, download our free housing guide for seniors.
Are there special admissions to get on a low income housing waiting list?
Applicant positioning on low-income housing waiting lists may be complicated by a decision by HUD in any given year to set aside certain portions of Section 8 funding solely for applicants and families meeting federally prioritized criteria. This can result in new applicants who qualify for the special-funding pool avoiding the Section 8 waiting list entirely and receiving immediate funding, while pre-existing applicants who do not meet the supplemental criteria continue to wait until general funding becomes available. For example, families who are being negatively impacted by changes to public housing projects are often federally mandated to receive preferential funding under HUD housing assistance programs. PHAs are required to provide such funding only to applicants meeting the extra criteria.
In some cases, this can lead to frustration when wait-listed seniors who are not aware of the split funding pools check their waiting list status for Section 8 assistance and perceive it to be unchanged while newer applicants receive assistance. Clear communicated information about Section 8 waiting lists about funding restrictions applicable to a PHA’s programming can reduce or eliminate such frustrations in PHA-served populations. Learn more about how positioning on low-income waiting lists can change how soon a senior can receive assistance by downloading our housing guide.
Learn About the Section 8 Waiting List Administration
Pre-qualified seniors from a PHA’s Section 8 housing program application waiting list must be selected to receive support when general program funding becomes available. New applicants cannot be placed ahead of pre-existing wait-listed families. A Section 8 waiting list tracks a variety of information on each qualifying family, including name, date of application and approving housing unit size. It also notes any federal or locally established preferential funding categories the applicant or family qualified for. Section 8 housing waiting list families cannot be passed over for assistance due to family size or the size of the housing unit for which they have been approved.
Although PHAs may maintain only one Section 8 waiting list, not all PHAs will manage those lists the same way. In areas in which a PHA also manages other housing programs, the Section 8 waiting lists may be merged or cross-listed with qualifying lists from other programs to maximize efficiency and the leveraging of resources. Regardless of the PHA’s decisions regarding mergers or cross-listings, seniors can expect their low income housing waiting list status or position to remain relatively stable. Outside of changes to family circumstances or composition that impact their ability to meet the Section 8 eligibility criteria, applicants generally cannot influence their position on a waiting list or do anything to reduce the amount of time they will wait for assistance. Applicants typically cannot be involuntarily removed from a Section 8 waiting list unless they fail to comply with PHA and Section 8 program requirements.