Common Pitfalls

Only applying to one public housing authority

There are not enough Section 8 vouchers or public housing units to help everyone who needs housing. When you apply to one of these programs, you usually are put on a waiting list. Some areas have very long waiting lists. In order to speed up the process of getting housing, you should apply to as many housing authorities as possible in the areas where you want to live.

Search for local public housing authorities (PHAs).

Not asking for help

If you have difficulty with the application or finding an apartment, tell your housing authority. They can help you. If your disability makes any part of the application process hard for you, the housing authority must provide reasonable accommodations. This might be extra help in filling out the application, extra time finding rental housing, or help to find housing that meets your needs.

Not returning to work because you fear you’ll lose your rental subsidy

With Section 8, public housing, and many different project-based housing programs, the more you make, the more rent you pay. Earned income is treated the same as unearned income, so if your earnings go up by $500 per month, your rent would go up by about 30% of that ($150 per month). The exact timing of when your rent changes depends on various things (it might not go up for several months).

If you are making more money by working and your share of rent goes up, check with your public housing authority (PHA) about the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. If the FSS program is an option for you, it will take the increased money that you are spending on rent and set it aside for your family. Later, you can spend this money on something, like for the down payment on a home or car.

The bottom line: You’re better off if you earn more because your rent won’t go up as much as your earnings.

Learn more about how work affects housing benefits and about the FSS program.

Not responding to waiting list update letters

Most housing authorities update their waiting lists often to make sure that everyone on them still wants a voucher. When you don’t respond to a letter from a housing authority, they probably think you don’t want a voucher and they’ll take you off the waiting list.

Not updating contact information while you are on a waiting list

While you are on a waiting list, it is very important to tell the housing authority about any changes in your contact information. If the housing authority is unable to contact you, they may take you off the list.

Not getting expert help when you are having trouble paying your mortgage

If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, or you are already facing foreclosure, it can be hard to figure out what you should do. The first step is to call for help:

Learn more