Frequent Pitfalls

Not responding to waiting list update letters

Housing authorities will usually place you on a waiting list when you first apply for a Section 8 voucher or public housing. While you are on the waiting list it is very important that you respond to all letters from the housing authority. They may write to you to ask for more information or to ask if you are still interested in housing.

Because people can apply to many different housing authorities and be on many waiting lists at once, most housing authorities update their list often to make sure that everyone on it still wants a voucher. If you fail to respond to an update letter from a housing authority, they will probably think you are no longer interested in a voucher and take you off the waiting list.

Not updating contact information while you are on a waiting list

While you are on a waiting list it is very important to tell the housing authority about any changes in your contact information. If the housing authority is unable to reach you to confirm that you are still interested in housing, or if they cannot contact you when your turn on the list comes, you may be taken off the list completely.

Only applying to one waiting list

In most areas there are not enough Section 8 vouchers or public housing units to help everyone that needs housing. When you apply to one of these programs, the housing authority will probably put you on a waiting list.

Some areas have very long waiting lists. In order to speed up the process of getting housing, you should apply to as many housing authorities as possible.

Not asking for help if you are having difficulty applying for, or participating in, a housing program

If your disability makes any part of the application process difficult for you, you are entitled to ask for a reasonable accommodation that will help you have a chance to participate in the program. Depending on your circumstances, reasonable accommodations may include help filling out applications, extra time to fill out applications or find rental housing, and assistance finding housing that will meet your specific needs.

You should tell the housing authority about any difficulty you are having with applying to or using Section 8 or Public Housing programs, and ask them to provide assistance.

Not returning to work because you fear you’ll lose your rental subsidy

With programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), such as Section 8, public housing, and many different project-based housing programs, the more you make, the more rent you pay. Earned income is treated the same as unearned income, so if your earnings go up by $500 per month, your rent would go up by about 30% of that ($150 per month). The exact timing of when your rent changes depends on various things (it might not go up for several months).

If you are making more money by working and your share of rent goes up, check with your public housing authority (PHA) about the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. If the FSS program is an option for you, it will take the increased money that you are spending on rent and set it aside for your family. Later, you can spend this money on something, like for the down payment on a home or car.

The bottom line: You’re better off if you earn more because your rent won’t go up as much as your earnings.

Learn more about how work affects HUD benefits and about the FSS program.

Not asking for help when faced with a housing emergency

If you are having trouble paying your rent and you are participating in the Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) or Housing Support (formerly Group Residential Housing) programs, additional funds may be available to help you. To find out more, contact your county or tribal human services office or Chat with a Hub expert.

The Crisis Housing Assistance Program can help you pay for housing costs, if you are hospitalized for mental illness or substance abuse treatment, and you are living in your own home or a rental unit that is not part of a government subsidy program. Your hospital or treatment facility can help you apply for the program. If you are approved, the payments are sent directly to person or agency you owe them to, like your landlord, mortgage company, or utility company.

If you are living in Section 8 or public housing and you are having trouble paying your rent, contact your local Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) or Public Housing Authority (PHA) for rental assistance.

Not seeking expert help when threatened with foreclosure

If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, or you are already facing foreclosure, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers resources that can help:

Learn more