Tips for Getting to the Top of the Section 8 Waiting List

The Section 8 housing waiting list is notoriously long, and that can feel frustrating to families that need help now. There’s a high demand for Section 8 vouchers to aid in rental assistance and, unfortunately, there’s usually not enough available help available at any given time.

Most of the time, families must wait for aid after completing their Section 8 application until assistance becomes available. However, these lists are not always on a first-come-first-serve basis, and there are several factors that can help you get to the top of the list and receive help more quickly. Learn how below.

Learn About Section 8 Waiting Lists & Typical Wait Times
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Section 8 housing is a low-income rental assistance program that provides aid to low-income families, seniors, and disabled persons. Local Public Housing Administrations (PHAs) provide vouchers directly to apartments that accept Section 8 tenants to pay a portion of the participant’s rental obligations.  

To qualify, applicants must meet household makeup, Section 8 eligibility income, and other requirements. Once accepted, a household will either receive assistance immediately or, more commonly, be put on a waiting list. Once aid is available, participants need to find Section 8 houses for rent. 

The affordable housing online waiting list provides assistance to applicants chronologically, unless the administering Public Housing Agency provides vouchers to specific groups of applicants first. If you are approved for benefits, you’ll usually start at the bottom of the list, unless you are given priority. 

As other participants receive assistance, you typically progress up the waiting list. If a list fills up, the PHA will not accept any new applicants until more space becomes available.

You can find an open waitlist for low income housing in your area through online searches, as most PHAs have websites that detail how to apply, discuss program requirements, and provide information on whether or not their waiting list is currently open. Reviewing this information can help you make an informed decision about whether or not to apply with a particular PHA, as these applications can be time consuming. 

However, you are not restricted to the number of PHAs to which you submit an application. Each area has its own PHA, so waiting list lengths can vary significantly between these areas. It may be a good idea to apply to as many Section 8 waiting lists as possible for your area, as doing so can improve your chances of receiving help sooner. 

Once you are on a Section 8 housing waiting list, the amount of time you may remain on the list depends on several factors, including the following: 

  • Where you live 
  • How many applicants are already on the waiting list 
  • How many vouches the Public Housing Agency can provide at any given time  
  • Your income

By law, PHAs must provide the majority of their vouchers to very low-income families. These income guidelines are based on the median income for an area, not a national guideline. As such, some income limits and guidelines may be lower from one PHA to another.

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