What to Expect After Submitting a Housing Application

What to Expect After Submitting a Housing Application


Millions of Americans struggle to find affordable housing. The federal government oversees a handful of assistance programs designed to help individuals and families with a variety of issues, such as housing, food insecurity, financial assistance, and more.

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is one such housing assistance program designed to help low-income individuals and families in finding safe and affordable housing. 

In this guide, you can learn more about what to expect after submitting your Section 8 application, as we provide valuable insights to help you navigate the process effectively.

Understanding the Section 8 Program

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is a federal housing assistance initiative designed to assist low-income individuals and families in finding safe and affordable housing. The program aims to achieve several critical objectives:

1. Affordable Housing Access

One of the primary goals of the Section 8 program is to increase the availability of decent, safe, and sanitary housing for low-income households. It accomplishes this by providing financial assistance to eligible tenants.

2. Tenant Choice

The “Choice” in Housing Choice Voucher means that program participants have the flexibility to choose the housing that best suits their needs. Unlike traditional public housing, where tenants are assigned to specific developments, Section 8 voucher holders can select housing units that meet program requirements, provided the landlord agrees to participate.

3. Rent Affordability

Section 8 helps bridge the gap between what low-income tenants can afford to pay for rent and the market rate for housing. Voucher holders typically pay a portion of their income toward rent (usually around 30-40%), while the program covers the remaining portion directly to the landlord.

4. Housing Quality Standards (HQS)

To ensure that program participants reside in safe and well-maintained housing, Section 8 imposes Housing Quality Standards (HQS). Units must meet these standards to qualify for the program.

How Does the Section 8 Program Work?

To better understand how the Section 8 program operates, it’s important to understand some of its key components.

First, to qualify for Section 8 assistance, applicants must meet certain criteria. This includes income limits set by HUD. These limits vary by location and family size, but generally, eligible households have incomes at or below 50% of the area’s median income.

Due to high demand for affordable housing, many Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) maintain waiting lists for Section 8 vouchers. Once you’ve submitted your application and been deemed eligible, you’ll likely be placed on your local PHA’s waiting list. Wait times can vary significantly depending on factors like funding availability and demand in your area.

When your name reaches the top of the waiting list, you’ll be issued a housing voucher. This voucher represents your eligibility for rental assistance.

With your voucher in hand, you can begin searching for suitable housing. You have the freedom to choose a unit that meets your needs and the program’s requirements. This includes considering factors like location, size, and whether the landlord is willing to participate in the Section 8 program.

However, before you move into the selected unit, it must undergo an inspection to ensure it meets HQS. If the unit passes inspection, you can sign a lease agreement with the landlord, and the program’s rental assistance will begin.

As a voucher holder, you’ll typically contribute a portion of your income toward rent (usually 30-40%), while the Section 8 program covers the rest directly to the landlord. This arrangement helps ensure that housing remains affordable for low-income individuals and families.

Understanding the program’s purpose and mechanics is crucial as you navigate the process after submitting your application. With this knowledge, you can better prepare for the next steps, including the waiting period, voucher issuance, housing search, and lease signing, which we’ve detailed in the earlier sections of this guide.

What to Expect After Submitting Your Section 8 Application

After submitting your Section 8 application, you’ll enter a crucial phase on your journey to affordable housing. This period involves waiting for your name to reach the top of the waiting list, updating your application as needed, and preparing for the issuance of your housing voucher. 

1. Waiting List Period

After submitting your application, the waiting list period can be the most challenging part of the Section 8 process. The duration of your wait will depend on several factors, including your local PHA’s policies, funding availability, and the demand for housing assistance in your area. Wait times can range from several months to several years.

Tip: Stay patient and stay informed. Some PHAs offer online tools or hotlines where you can check your status on the waiting list.

2. Updating Your Application

During the waiting period, it’s essential to keep your application up-to-date. If your circumstances change (e.g., income, family composition, contact information), notify your PHA immediately. This ensures that your application remains accurate and that you don’t miss any important notifications.

3. Preparing for Voucher Issuance

When your name reaches the top of the waiting list, you’ll receive a housing voucher offer. This is an exciting step, but there are crucial considerations:

Acceptance Deadline: You’ll have a limited time to accept the voucher offer, typically around 10 days. Make sure you’re prepared to respond promptly.

Orientation: Most PHAs require you to attend an orientation session to learn about the program’s rules and your responsibilities as a voucher holder. Be ready to participate in this informative session.

With your voucher in hand, you can start your housing search. Here’s what you need to know:

Search Widely: Don’t limit your search to specific neighborhoods. Explore different areas to increase your chances of finding suitable housing.

Landlord Outreach: Contact potential landlords and inform them that you have a Section 8 voucher. Some landlords may not be familiar with the program, so be prepared to explain how it works.

Housing Quality Standards (HQS): Ensure the unit you choose meets HQS. If it doesn’t, the landlord will need to make necessary repairs before the PHA conducts an inspection.

5. Inspection and Lease Signing

Once you find a unit and the landlord agrees to participate in the Section 8 program, the unit will undergo an inspection. The goal is to ensure that the unit meets HUD’s safety and quality standards. If the unit passes inspection, you can proceed with the lease signing.

Here’s a simplified timeline of what to expect:

Application SubmissionYou submit your Section 8 application.Varies
Waiting List PlacementYour application is placed on a waiting list.Varies (months to years)
Voucher Issuance OfferYou receive a housing voucher offer.10 days to accept
OrientationAttend an orientation session to learn program rules.Typically within 2 weeks
Housing SearchSearch for suitable housing that meets program requirements.Varies (weeks to months)
Inspection and Lease SigningUnit inspection and lease signing.After finding suitable unit

Following Up on Your Section 8 Application

While waiting for your Section 8 voucher and throughout the process, proactive communication with your PHA is crucial. Here are some tips for following up:

  • Contact Information: Ensure that your contact information with the PHA is accurate. Notify them promptly of any changes.
  • Regular Check-Ins: If you haven’t received communication within the expected timeframes, don’t hesitate to call or visit your PHA office to check on the status of your application.
  • Documentation: Keep copies of all communication with the PHA and any relevant documents, such as income verification and correspondence.
  • Be Prepared: When you receive a voucher offer, be prepared to act promptly. Missing deadlines could result in losing your voucher.

Reasons for Section 8 Denial

If you are unsure of why your Section 8 application was denied, consult the following list for potential reasons:  

  • Not meeting the program’s eligibility criteria.

This could refer to area income limit, immigration status, or college enrollment.

  • A previous eviction from rent-assisted housing.

PHAs may deny Section 8 admission to a family if any member of the household was evicted from federally assisted housing within the last five years.

  • Fraud, bribery or any other criminal act in relation to rent assistance.

PHAs are allowed to deny an application if a member of the family has committed any corrupt or criminal act in connection to a federal housing program. This includes submitting false information on the application.

  • Having an outstanding balance with a PHA.

If a family member owes rent or has an outstanding balance with any PHA, the household’s application may be denied. 

The decision to deny an application is generally made by the individual PHA you applied to. PHAs may consider mitigating circumstances when deciding whether to approve or deny an application.

For example, if a family member was removed from the Section 8 program for abusing alcohol in the past, but has since completed a supervised rehabilitation program, the PHA may decide to approve a new application.

Can you appeal a Section 8 denial?

If your application is denied, the PHA must send you a written notice explaining why. 

It must also let you know that you are allowed to request an informal review of the decision.

How does the informal review work?

The PHA will assign someone to review its decision to deny the application. The reviewer cannot be the same person who made the denial decision in the first place. You will be given the opportunity to respond to the PHA’s decision with a spoken or written statement. In your statement, you can explain and give examples of why you believe the PHA’s decision is wrong. 

After the informal review, the PHA must notify you of the final decision and briefly explain the decision. 

Additional Assistance and Resources

Navigating the Section 8 process can be challenging, but there are resources available to help you along the way:

1. Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

It’s essential to understand your rights and responsibilities as a Section 8 voucher holder. Familiarize yourself with the HUD’s guidelines and your local PHA’s policies. These resources can help you understand what to expect and how to protect your housing rights.

As a renter or homeowner, you have certain rights. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal for anyone to discriminate against you based on: 

  • Race. 
  • Color.
  • Religion. 
  • National origin. 
  • Sex. 
  • Family status. 
  • Disability. 

Illegal discrimination occurs when a landlord does one of the following in relation to one of the aforementioned protected categories:

  • Refuses to rent housing
  • Refuses to negotiate housing
  • Makes housing unavailable
  • Establishes different housing terms, conditions or privileges for certain applicants
  • Gives different services or facilities
  • Falsely denies that a property is available for rent, sale or inspection
  • Publishes or prints any sort of notice or statement that shows his or her preferences, discrimination or limitation about a rental or sale
  • Applies different criteria to assess possible tenants or owners (income, requirements, fees, approval procedures, etc.)
  • Evicts a tenant or a tenant’s guest
  • Limits or discourages a rental or sale
  • Delays or does not provide maintenance services
  • Assigns people to specific sections or buildings

For other examples of housing discrimination based on a federally protected category, click on the following link or input the URL into your browser’s address bar: 

2. Housing Counseling

HUD funds housing counseling agencies that provide free or low-cost assistance to Section 8 applicants and tenants. They can offer guidance on finding housing, understanding leases, and budgeting for your new rental expenses.

3. Local Social Services

Many communities offer additional services to help low-income individuals and families, such as food assistance, utility bill support, and childcare services. Explore these resources to ease financial burdens.

4. Online Housing Search Tools

Several websites and apps can help you find available rental units that accept Section 8 vouchers. Some popular options include GoSection8.com and Socialserve.com.


Submitting your Section 8 application is a significant step toward securing safe and affordable housing. While the waiting period can be challenging, staying informed, proactive, and patient is key. Remember to keep your application updated, be prepared to accept your voucher offer, and conduct a thorough housing search.

Throughout the process, reach out to your local PHA for guidance and support. Additionally, take advantage of tenant resources, housing counseling, and local social services to make your transition into the Section 8 program as smooth as possible.

By staying informed and proactive, you can be better prepared to navigate the Section 8 process and ultimately improve your housing situation and quality of life.

Did you find this information useful?

Thanks for your feedback!

You also may be interested in

View all