Your Guide to Section 8 & the HUD Waiting List

Section 8 is an important government program that provides housing assistance to low-income families.



This program is available in all states and is generally the most in-demand in major cities. As a result, individuals who live in areas with lower populations may be able to receive benefits more quickly than they would if they were applying in a larger area.

Local public housing agencies (PHAs) are responsible for distributing benefits to qualifying applicants.  However, the funds for the Section 8 housing choice voucher program come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Since these funds are limited, PHAs can only award a certain amount of benefits in a given period of time.

When more people are awarded benefits than are available, a Section 8 waiting list forms. Most applicants will need to spend time on a waiting list before they can receive benefits.


The following sections explain how these lists form and how long you can expect to wait on them before you receive Section 8 support. 

Section 8 Waiting List Overview 

Most major cities have a Section 8 waiting list at any given time. This is partly due to the fact that so many individuals live in locations like New York City, San Francisco and Miami, so funds are more limited.

Benefits are also available in smaller cities and towns throughout the nation. Usually, there is less competition to receive Section 8 benefits in these parts of the country.

In any case, waiting lists form when all of the Section 8 vouchers that a PHA has are currently being used. Then, new applicants are placed on the waiting list until vouchers become available.

Depending on the length of the list, applicants can be in the queue for benefits anywhere from a few weeks to several years. 

Furthermore, most cities use a randomized waiting list to determine when individuals will receive benefits. This means that households that are accepted into the program receive a number or position within their PHA’s waiting list. Computers assign these numbers to ensure complete fairness among applicants. Keep in mind that it can take months for waiting list positions to be announced after PHAs stop accepting applications. 

Once you are placed on the waiting list, there are no additional steps you need to take. You cannot begin to receive benefits until you reach the top of the waitlist. Your PHA should reach out to you when it is almost your turn to receive benefits. Until then, you are responsible for securing your own housing. 

Check with other resources in your area to learn about other benefits that may be available to you during this time. There may be additional government programs you can enroll in until you receive benefits. Likewise, nonprofits or public service groups in your area may be able to help you while you wait. 

What are the requirements for Section 8 Housing?

Before you can be placed on the Section 8 waiting list, you need to make sure you meet program requirements, which you can learn more about requirements here. Even though this housing choice voucher program is managed on the state level, there are national requirements you need to meet before you can enroll. These relate to the following points: 

  • Household income – In order to qualify for Section 8 benefits, you need to meet the program’s income requirements. Generally, this means your household qualifies as low-income, though the specifics of this requirement will vary by location. This is because low-earning status is determined in relation to the median income of a particular area. 
  • History of eviction – PHAs will not give housing vouchers to individuals who were evicted for drug-related activities in the past three years. Likewise, individuals cannot receive Section 8 if they were convicted for producing methamphetamine in an assisted living house. 
  • Citizenship – Housing choice vouchers are only awarded to households where all members are U.S. citizens. Additionally, Section 8 benefits can be distributed to foreign-born applicants who maintain one of the approved immigration statuses. 
  • Family status – PHAs need to determine that households that apply for Section 8 can be considered families. Usually, this means the group of individuals have children, at least one member who is 62 years of age or older or someone has a disability. Alternatively, single individuals can also receive benefits. 

In any case, make sure you speak with representatives at your local PHA to determine if you qualify for benefits. Otherwise, you may spend the time submitting your application and realize later that you did not qualify to receive any support through your local Section 8 program. Learn more about the housing choice voucher program here

Learn About Section 8 Waiting List Local Preferences

Generally, the order of a Section 8 waiting list is randomly organized. However, some PHAs may be able to give preference to certain applicants. This is usually based on families’ circumstances. For example, preference may be given to individuals who are:

  • Veterans. 
  • Victims of domestic abuse. 
  • Homeless. 

If you have questions as to whether you qualify to receive a local preference, contact the PHA you want to receive benefits through. Representatives can let you know what their agency’s rules are regarding preferences. Furthermore, if you have circumstances that are placing you or your children in immediate danger, be sure to explain this to your PHA. Otherwise, you may not be able to receive the assistance you need. 

How Waiting List Preferences Are Established

Is there an open Section 8 waiting list near me?

If you need immediate housing assistance, you may not have the time to wait for Section 8 benefits to become available to you in your desired city. In this instance, you may consider looking for other PHAs in different areas for assistance. 

Some cities or jurisdictions near you may have an open Section 8 waiting list you can apply to be on. This means that the PHA is currently accepting applications, and you can submit your information to be considered for a voucher in that city. 

In order to look for open housing choice voucher waitlists, you may want to begin your search online. Many PHAs in the United States have websites you can visit to learn about waiting lists near you. These sites can tell you when you can submit an application to have a chance of receiving benefits through that PHA. However, you may also want to call the agencies in your area to learn about whether they are accepting applications.