There’s little doubt that Section 8 rental assistance can be a huge help if you’re struggling to pay the bills. If approved for a housing voucher, part of your rent can be paid by a Public Housing Agency (PHA) directly to the landlord. Pay the remaining rent out of your pocket, and you’re good to go.
While this is probably great news if you’re behind on your rent payment, there is one downside to Section 8 vouchers: The time it takes to get them.
Why Are Section 8 Waiting Lists so Long?
Depending on your PHA, which can be found here, you may have to wait several years to get your housing voucher. Why is the wait so long? Blame it on demand.
Simply put, the people that need voucher assistance far exceed its supply. And in areas where the demand is especially high, the wait can be much longer.
Even if you fulfill all of the eligibility requirements for Section 8, there are cases where your application can be rejected due to demand. That’s why it’s important to not only start the application process now, but to also include all the relevant details when applying.
What’s one of the most important details you can include? Those that deal with preferences, especially when you gain a spot on the Section 8 waiting list.
What is a “preference”? It’s a circumstance or characteristic that the PHA gives priority over others. And if one or more applies to your situation, it can get you a housing voucher quicker.
How Waiting List Preferences Work
For a preference to be applicable, it must relate to one of the following family members:
- Head of household
To prove that the preference is true, documentation will be needed. Once verified, the preference is usually assigned a point value by the PHA. The more preferences you have, the more points you can accumulate, which can push you closer to the front of the voucher line.
As with procedures, waiting list times, and other Section 8 factors, the use of waiting list preferences depends on your PHA. Preferences used in one location may not apply to another, and some PHAs may not use any at all.
To find out which preferences your PHA uses, contact them, and ask. If any apply to you, be sure to mention them during the application process so you can get your voucher as soon as possible.
Here are some examples of waiting list preferences:
- Rent-burdened – Paying a disproportionate percentage of your income towards rent.
- Homeless – Living on the streets or in a shelter.
- Residing in substandard housing – One with no plumbing, electricity, kitchen, etc.
- Domestic violence victims – Legal documentation may be necessary.
- Displaced by a natural disaster – Forced out of your home due to a flood, fire, etc.
- Displaced by government action – Removed from your home due to code enforcement, cuts to housing funding, etc.
- Disabled – Cannot live or function on your own, in need of more accessible housing, etc.
Many more preferences exist, so don’t forget to ask your PHA which ones are being given priority in your area.