Emergency Section 8 Housing: Eligibility, Priority Waiting List, How to Apply




If you are struggling to find affordable housing and can demonstrate sufficient need, you may be eligible for an Emergency Section 8 voucher. Convicted felons and their family members can also apply for Section 8, if they meet all the necessary program requirements.

Find out whether you would be eligible to get expedited housing assistance through Section 8 Priority Wait List, and how to start the application process.

Keep in mind that the final determination of your case is up to the local PHA. It will still take at least a few weeks for them to review your case, and make a decision.

What is the Section 8 emergency housing voucher?

Also known as a Priority Waiting List, emergency Section 8 is an expedited application process that enables certain individuals and families to obtain their housing choice voucher much faster than the standard time.

In most cities, the demand for public housing is significantly higher than what the federal and local governments can provide and have the funding for. This means that it may take as long as 2 years for a standard application to be processed and approved by your local PHA.

Typically, large cities have much longer Section 8 waiting lists, where as smaller towns have a much quicker wait time for applicants.

However, in certain cases, the PHA may determine that the application needs to be moved up the waiting list, and you may get your voucher within a matter of weeks or months as opposed to years.

However, its important to note that HUD does NOT provide emergency housing per se, and applications for Section 8 get expedited in rare and very particular cases.

Who is eligible for the priority wait list?

These are general federal guidelines on which individuals would be considered eligible to get top priority on the Section 8 waiting list. The final decision is made by the local PHA, and additional eligibility criteria may apply.

Who is given priority?

– battered women or men fleeing their homes and trying to avoid further abuse (sexual, physical)
– single parents with small children who pay more than 50% of income for rent
– disabled individuals (both mental health and physical disabilities)
– senior citizens
– veterans
– any person from the above groups who is currently homeless or in danger of becoming homeless
– individuals who lost their home due to a fire or a natural disaster (hurricane, flood, etc)
– individuals facing eviction from current public housing

The determination is based on a point scale. The more points your application gets, the higher you will be placed on the priority list, and the faster your will get your voucher.

Usually, HUD prefers to give priority to very low income senior citizens and disabled individuals.

Its important to realize that in many communities there are individuals and families who struggle with homelessness, and still they are not getting public housing assistance. This largely depends on where you live and the funding that is available.

Emergency assistance for disabled individuals

If you or a family member are not elderly and have a physical or mental disability, you may be eligible for special housing assistance. HUD offers a separate Non-Elderly Disabled Vouchers Program (NED), which is not part of Section 8.

This program is designed for disabled persons who are interested in moving into “special developments”, which is housing that is specifically approved for the program. Disabled individuals who are currently residing in a healthcare institution or a public housing project and want to transition into privately-owned housing are also eligible for these vouchers.

To apply, you don’t need to be a current Section 8 tenant, or be on the list for a Section 8 choice voucher.

Can a felon get emergency section 8 housing?

If you or someone in your household has a felony conviction, you may still be able to get emergency section 8 housing. Get more details from our comprehensive guide on how felons can get section 8 housing.

As long as you meet the standard eligibility criteria for public housing and have special circumstances, you may be moved up the priority list.

Individuals whose felonies are under 5 years old, will not be accepted by most PHA’s. Moreover, those with violent/sexual crimes as well as drug sales charges will also be denied eligibility.

In addition to Section 8, there are other housing options for felons.

How to apply

To be considered for the emergency housing voucher you still need to go through the standard application process. Start your section 8 application by finding a local Public Housing Authority. Once you locate the agency in your area, you can go there and fill out the application.

First, you need to meet all the standard eligibility criteria and pass the criminal background check.

Basic criteria to qualify for Section 8 include:

– having a low income (below 50% of the state median income guidelines)
– family size
– showing proof of income
– having proper ID
– proof of citizenship/legal status
– no previous evictions for drug/crime related activities.

On the application, you will be asked to indicate your special circumstances, such as: homelessness, disability, age, etc. The PHA will review your application and determine whether you are eligible to be moved up the priority list.

Its also a good idea to speak with someone at your PHA directly once you submit your application and all supporting documents. Make sure to call them about once a week to remind them of your case. Don’t be embarrassed to call and “bother” them.

People who speak up about their needs have a much greater chance of being heard. Those who silently wait, usually remain in the regular wait line.

If you have questions, feel free to call the HUD Free Assistance Number: (800) 955-2232.

Applying with multiple PHA’s

In some cities, PHA’s are so full that their waiting lists are extremely long, and it may take over 3 years to get your voucher. Some PHA’s also choose to close their lists for a certain amount of time, simply because they cannot meet the demand. In this case, your local PHA will advise you when they will open up the wait list again, and you need to make sure to apply within that window of time. It may take from a few months to a year for enrollment to be open again.

If you are experiencing this situation, its best to apply for Section 8 through multiple local PHAs. This is perfectly legal, but many people are not aware of this option. Applying to numerous housing authorities may shorten your wait time and increase your chances of getting housing assistance much faster.

Note that its permitted by law to apply to the same PHA, once you have already submitted your application. You remain an active member of the wait list unless you withdraw your paperwork and terminate your application.

Will I get a discount on rent if I am eligible for emergency housing assistance?

No. Even if you are able to get a section 8 choice voucher much faster due to special circumstances, you will not be given a discount on your monthly payments for rent.

You will still need to pay rent based on your income. Typically, at least 30% and no more than 40% of your adjusted gross income will go to pay your rent and utilities. The monthly amount you pay cannot be less than $50. The rest will be paid directly to your landlord through the government subsidy.

Where can I live once I get my Section 8 voucher?

Many people mistakenly think that getting section 8 means you have to live in public housing developments or “projects”. However, nothing can be further from the truth.

There are housing development projects that take tenants with a section 8 voucher. However, this voucher also allows you to look for your own private housing. It can be an apartment complex or a single family home in any local neighborhood.

The only criteria is that this apartment or house must meet the section 8 eligibility criteria. In another words, the landlord accepts tenants who have Section 8 and this rental has passed the inspection.

Getting help from a social worker

You may be able to move up the waiting list quicker and have your case re-considered by enlisting the help of a social worker. This is a completely free service that is provided by many types of agencies.

However, most people simply don’t think about this option and how helpful it can be in helping you turn your situation around.

Here are some places you may be able to find a social worker than will take on your case:

– your physician may refer you to a social worker
– some legal aid programs offer social worker assistance
– amazing SOAR program has case workers that are trained to help people with mental disabilities
– local agencies on aging have staff that help the elderly with housing needs
– centers for independent living run by people with disabilities usually have social workers
– many local community agencies have part-time social workers on staff



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