The process of applying for public housing is basically the same as applying for the Housing Choice Voucher since the programs are similar. Just like with Section 8, you also have to apply to the PHA in the area you wish to move into. You’ll have to provide basic information on every member of your household as well as supporting documents. You don’t have to separately apply for Public Housing if you already applied for section 8 because the two programs are both handled by the PHA and you should be offered a spot on both waiting lists automatically as long as you qualify.
Who Qualifies for Public Housing?
Public Housing may be administered by the federal government or state government. All forms of Public Housing are however limited to households with low income and eligible immigration status. Disabled and elderly families are placed in high priority. Depending on your area, you may be required to have at least one elderly person in your household to qualify.
If you are deemed eligible, the PHA will check your references and tenancy history to be sure your household will be good tenants. If you have any practices or habits that may be harmful to other tenants in the property, you will not be granted accommodation in a public housing unit.
It is also possible that you’re denied accommodation in public housing if there is no appropriate unit size for your household.
Public Housing Leases
Once you accept a unit offered by the PHA, it is very important that you sign a lease. Signing a Public Housing lease will mean that the PHA will be your landlord. Irrespective of whether it is a state or federal public housing project, the lease must comply with local, state, and federal housing laws and regulations.
Although all public housing leases are required to have some basic terms, there may be some additions or modifications depending on the housing authority. So it is very important that you read and understand all terms of your lease before signing. You may ask a PHA staff to explain any aspects of the lease that aren’t clear to you.
How Long Does Public Housing Last?
Although your Public Housing lease may have a specific length, it may continue to be renewed as long as you remain eligible for the program. The length of state public housing leases sometimes differs from federal housing leases. You can always find information about the length of the lease in the agreement.
In most states, state public housing lease agreements don’t have specific lengths. They just continue until either you or the PHA ends the agreement through writing. In federal public housing, on the other hand, the lease agreements usually last for one year and keep on renewing automatically as long as you abide by the rules and remain qualified.
To ensure that you are still qualified to receive assistance, you will need to undergo a yearly assessment of income, household composition, and living conditions.
What Happens After You Apply?
After you apply for Public Housing, you will receive a notification of whether you qualify or not, usually through the mail. If the PHA approves your application, you will be placed on the waiting list and notified as soon as you get to the top.
If you have certain conditions such as a high risk of homelessness, you may be able to get a unit sooner. Just ensure you contact your PHA to know the conditions that may qualify you for faster assistance and inform them if you have any. In the event that your application is denied, you can request an appeal.
How Much Do Public Housing Tenants Have to Pay for Rent?
The amount of money you’ll have to pay for rent as a Public Housing tenant depends on your income and whether your unit is in a federal or state housing project. If you’re unsure of whether your unit belongs to a federal or state project, you should ask your PHA.
Federal public housing projects usually require that tenants pay either 30% of their monthly adjusted income or 10% of their annual income depending on which is higher and the conditions of the lease. If you have to pay for utilities, it will be deducted from your rent amount.
In a state public housing, the percentage of your income you’ll have to pay for rent depends on the size of your household and whether you have to pay for utilities or not. A single, disabled or elderly household will be expected to pay 30% of their net income if they don’t have to pay for utilities, and 25% if they do. A household of more than one person will have to pay 32% of their net income if they don’t pay for any utilities, 30% if they pay for only some, and 27% if they pay for all their utilities.