According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 1.2 million households occupy public housing units. These include apartments, multi-family dwellings and single-family houses. Public housing provides clean, safe housing managed by the housing agencies across the country. The public housing program is separate from the Section 8 vouchers program, which allows renters to seek their own housing managed by approved private landlords using rental credits provided by HUD. However, due to long waiting lists, eligible applicants often submit applications for both programs.
Public housing is reserved for those unable to pay for safe housing without assistance. Eligibility is based upon three criteria:
- Annual income
- Status as disabled, elderly or family
- U.S. citizenship or immigration eligibility
HUD checks your references to ensure that your presence in public housing won’t create a harmful or dangerous environment for others.
Income limits vary depending on your location. HUD considers your income low if it is 80 percent of the local median income in your county. Your income is considered very low if it is 50 percent of the local median. Limits also vary depending on family size. If your income is too high in one county, you may qualify in another.
Find Your Local Office
Public housing agencies in each state work directly with people in need of assistance. Every state has multiple public housing agency office locations to serve your needs. Find a comprehensive list of your state’s offices online, or call (800) 955-2232 for help. Some offices only handle Section 8 applications; choose an office that works with public housing.
Complete an Application
You must submit an application to be considered for HUD public housing. A counselor at your local housing agency office can assist you in person, or you can pick up a form at your local office. You also can complete an application online through your housing authority office’s website. Be prepared to provide the following information:
- Name, sex and date of birth for each resident
- Current address and telephone number
- Rental history
- Previous landlord contact information
- Source of income for all prospective tenants
- Estimated total income for the next 12 months
- Employer information
- Banking information
- Special qualifying circumstances for any family member, such as veterans or disabled applicants
Gather supporting documents: Birth certificates Tax returns * Financial documents such as bank statements
If you’re submitting the application online, you’ll be contacted to schedule an interview with a counselor at your housing agency.
Approval for HUD Housing
Many local housing agencies have a waitlist for new tenants. Check with your local office and inquire about the anticipated length of time you’ll wait for housing. Some agencies schedule an in-home visit as part of the application process. During the visit, they’ll meet with you and all other family members and take note of your current living conditions.
Agencies may perform criminal background checks as part of the approval process. HUD housing agencies follow the Fair Housing Act, which states that discriminatory practices are illegal when based on the following characteristics:
- National origin
- The presence of children
If you feel that you’ve been denied approval to a HUD housing program due to discrimination, file a housing discrimination complaint online or call your HUD regional office and speak to a fair housing specialist.
Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.