A common misconception about Section 8 and housing vouchers is that it’s a quick form of rental assistance. Many believe that when they can’t pay the rent due to an emergency that Section 8 can come in and save the day.
Unfortunately, that’s not true due to one critical factor: time. Section 8 is not emergency rental assistance since it can take a ton of time to receive your housing voucher. So if you’re nearing eviction due to a lack of rent money, it’s best to look elsewhere for that short term solution.
On the flip side, housing vouchers can be an excellent long-term solution for rental assistance. If you’re consistently having trouble making the rent, a monthly voucher can change that by covering part of your payment.
With that being said, let’s tackle the task of trying to decipher just how long you’ll be on a Section 8 waiting list. Although we won’t be able to give a precise answer since it varies due to your Public Housing Agency (PHA), we will at least look at the basics of how waiting lists work.
The Waiting List Process
After you complete your Section 8 application and submit it, you will have to wait for the approval. This wait will vary according to your PHA, but the standard is somewhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
Your PHA may give you various options to apply. If the online option is available, take it over a paper application, as it can take less time to process.
If your application is approved, you will get a spot on the waiting list. This notification often comes via email or a letter. If you do not get placed on a waiting list, you may receive no warning at all. Again, this will depend on your PHA’s procedures.
A waiting list’s order can be determined chronologically, or randomly via a lottery. Once you have your spot, you’ll want to keep it. This is why paying attention to any notifications or requests for information is crucial. If you don’t respond to a request, you may lose your spot.
It’s also important to note any changes to your situation. If your income or family composition changes, contact your PHA so they can make the adjustments. Keeping your contact information up-to-date is also a must, just in case they need to contact you.
Waiting List Times
The higher the population in your area, the longer the wait time for a housing voucher. There may be exceptions to this, but that’s usually how it works.
You may be on a Section 8 waiting list for several years. You can narrow down this timeframe by asking your PHA for an estimate, or you can look at its “Annual Plan” to calculate it yourself.
Calculating Your Section 8 Waiting Time
The Annual Plan can tell you how many people are on the waiting list, plus the annual turnover rate. The turnover rate describes how many vouchers are awarded per year.
Here’s an example if your area has 500 households on the waiting list with an annual turnover rate of 100:
500/100 = 5 years.
Yes, you would have to wait approximately five years to get your housing voucher in this case, which shows why Section 8 is not a form of emergency rental assistance.
If you’re confused or unsure of how long your wait for a voucher is, contact your PHA so they can point you in the right direction.