Section 8 openings are commonly prioritized for applicants who meet certain criteria. These are known as “preferences” and may allow some applicants to skip to the top of the waiting list in their local public housing authority (PHA).
PHA preferences for the Section 8 waiting list are typically given to applicants who are the most at risk. In other words, if waiting for housing to become available would pose threats to their health or well-being, they may receive priority for housing before others. For example, applicants who are currently homeless may receive preference over those who currently live in a house, apartment or another residence.
If you are looking for low-income housing, it’s important for you to determine if you qualify for one or more preferences with your local PHA. Each PHA may define preferences differently; some may not give them at all. Likewise, some PHAs may use preferences to move applicants up the waiting list while others allow them to skip it altogether.
You may qualify to get low-income housing right away if your PHA has preferences and you meet one or more of the following criteria:
- You are homeless.
- You have a disability.
- You are 62 years of age or older.
- You have an extremely low household income.
- You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- You are a domestic violence victim.
- You are a victim of a natural disaster.
Meeting one or more of these criteria may not automatically let you skip ahead on a waiting list. Some PHAs do not give priority to any applicant, regardless of his or her personal situation. However, if your PHA provides preferences for any of these conditions, you may be able to jump ahead on the list.
The PHA will consult your Section 8 housing application to determine if you have any preferences. You likely need to provide proof of meeting any or all of the conditions listed above. For example, if you claim a preference based on your veteran status, you may need to verify your military documents.
It is always a good idea to apply to multiple PHAs to increase your chances of finding affordable housing. Some PHAs may not have any Section 8 openings available, so it is best to apply to the ones that do.
Some PHAs may allow applicants with preferences to avoid the waiting list altogether. This means that they would be first in line when a unit becomes available. Contact your local PHA to determine if they give preferences.