Selection From The Waiting List

As vouchers are expected to become available, the PHA selects eligible applicants from the waiting list in order to begin the eligibility determination, voucher issuance, and leasing processes. Except for special admissions, participants must be selected from the housing choice voucher program waiting list. 

The PHA must select participants from the waiting list in accordance with HUD regulations and requirements and in compliance with admission policies in the PHA’s administrative plan. The PHA’s admission policy must describe the PHA’s system of preferences that is used to select applicants from the waiting list, including any residency or other local preference. The PHA must organize its waiting list and maintain the information necessary to select according to its policies. 

If the PHA does not have a system of local preferences, applicants are selected from the waiting list in sequence according to the date and time of their applications or the result of a random drawing (lottery system). If the PHA has a preference system, the applicant that qualifies for a preference may be issued a housing choice voucher before an applicant that applied earlier but has no preference. 

The PHA may never select families for admission to the program in an order different from the order on the waiting list for the purpose of selecting higher income families for admission to the program.  

The order of selection from the waiting list must not be based on family household size, or on the family unit size for which the family qualifies under the PHA’s occupancy policy. Waiting lists maintained by family unit size are illegal. 

If the PHA does not have sufficient funds to subsidize the unit size requested by the family at the top of the waiting list, the PHA may not skip the top family to admit an applicant with a smaller family unit size. Instead, the family at the top of the waiting list must be admitted when sufficient funds are available. 

 Although a PHA can establish a preference system to admit families with certain characteristics from the waiting list, admission to the program must never be based on the following:  

  • The presence of family members that include unwed parents, recipients of public assistance, or children born out of wedlock  
  • Families with children 
  • Age, race, color, religion, sex or national origin 
  • An applicant’s decision to participate in a family self-sufficiency program 
  • Persons with a specific disability 
HUD develops income limits based on Median Family Income estimates and Fair Market Rent area definitions for each metropolitan area, parts of some metropolitan areas, and each non-metropolitan county. 

At least 75 percent of the families who are admitted to a PHA’s housing choice voucher program during the PHA fiscal year must be extremely low-income. Extremely low-income families are those with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income. 

The annual gross income of the applicant family is used for income-targeting purposes. Annual income must have been verified within the 60 days prior to issuance of the voucher. A PHA must meet its income targeting requirement over the course of the PHA’s fiscal year. In other words, deviations from the 75 percent extremely low-income target are allowed during the year as long as the target is met by the year’s end. 

The PHA will need to regularly monitor the income levels of its waiting list applicants and new admissions in order to be sure that it will meet its income-targeting requirement by the end of its fiscal year.

To do this, a PHA should take the following steps: 

Collect the data necessary to estimate the annual gross incomes of waiting list applicants

Estimate the number of families it expects to admit over the course of its fiscal year

Estimate the number of families it will need to select from its waiting list in order to admit the number of families identified in Step 2

For the total number of families identified in Step 3, use data collected in Step 1 to determine what percentage may be expected to fall in the extremely low-income category

With this information, begin  admitting applicants according to the selection criteria contained in the PHA administrative plan

Monitor admissions to determine the actual percentage of extremely low-income families who are admitted into the program

If it is clear from the data collected in Step 6 that the PHA is not going to meet the income-targeting requirement:

Step 7A – Suspend that part of the PHA’s existing selection policy that discourages admission of extremely low-income families

Step 7B- Implement a strategy for reaching out to extremely low-income families on the waiting list

Step 7C- Aggressively market o extremely low-income families

Preferences

The PHA may, but is not required to, establish a system of preferences for the selection of families admitted to the program. PHA selection preferences must be described in the PHA administrative plan. In addition, the preference system must be based on local housing needs and priorities, as determined by the PHA. In determining such needs and priorities, the PHA must use generally accepted data sources and consider public comment on the proposed PHA plan. 

The PHA may not deny a local preference, nor otherwise exclude or penalize a family in admission to the program, solely because the family resides in a public housing development. The PHA may not provide a local preference for families who agree to participate in the family self-sufficiency program. The PHA may not adopt a preference for selection of higher income families over low-income families. If a PHA wishes to change its current preference system, the PHA must give notice and opportunity for public comment. This requirement is applicable even if the new system is simply based on date and time of application. 

An opportunity for public comment can be a public meeting or an opportunity to submit written comment. The new participant selection system must be included in the PHA administrative plan and approved by the PHA before implementation. 

PHAs must explain each type of preference to applicants and provide them with the opportunity to show that they are qualified for the preference. 

The PHA may limit the number of applicants that may qualify for any local preference. For applicants on the waiting list with the same preference status, the PHA may select among applicants using the date and time of application or use a drawing or other random choice technique. 

Take a look at your PHA’s administrative plan for any specific preferences you need to be aware of.  

Examples Of Preferences

The following provides examples of various types of local preferences that a PHA may, but is not required to, establish based on local housing needs and priorities: 

  • Persons who reside in a specified geographic area or who are working or have been hired to work in the same area, this is known as residency preference. 
  • Working families, families where the head, spouse or sole member is employed. Applicant families where the head, spouse or sole member is age 62 or older or is a person with disabilities must be given the benefit of the working family preference. 
  • Families that include a person with disabilities. The PHA, however, may not adopt a preference for admission of persons with a specific disability. 
  • Families that include victims of domestic violence. The Public Housing Reform Act of 1998 encourages PHAs to consider establishing a local preference for families that include victims of domestic violence. 
  • Single persons who are age 62 or older, displaced, homeless, or a person with disabilities.  
  • Families living in substandard housing.  
  • Families that are involuntarily displaced.  
  • Families paying more than 50 percent of gross monthly income for rent and utilities. 

It is the responsibility of the PHA to clearly define its preferences. For example, the PHA must define what it means by “working family”. Is a family in training included? How will the PHA make certain persons with disabilities and elderly applicants know they qualify when a PHA has a working preference?  

Procedures For Verification

PHAs should adopt procedures for verifying preferences. PHAs do not have to verify a preference at the time of initial application. At the time of initial application, the applicant only needs to certify, by statement and signature on the initial application, as to whether or not it is eligible for a preference, and the PHA only need to place the applicant on the waiting list according to the preference claimed. 

Before the family receives assistance, however, the PHA must verify the family’s eligibility for the preference based on current circumstances. 

If the applicant qualifies for a preference, they may be issued a housing choice voucher before an applicant that applied earlier but has no preference. If upon verification the PHA determines that the family does not qualify for the preference claimed, the family does not receive the preference and remains on the waiting list until they are called in order. In this situation, the PHA must provide a written notice stating the reasons for the determination. 

When identifying local preferences, it is important to simplify the definitions to the extent possible so that families claiming preferences clearly understand and preferences can be more easily verified. 

Special Admissions

HUD may award a PHA special program funding that is targeted for families living in specified units. For example, among others, special housing choice voucher program funding can be targeted to:  

  • Families displaced because of demolition or disposition of a public housing development 
  • Families residing in a multifamily rental housing project when HUD sells, forecloses, or demolishes the project 
  • Families residing in a project covered by a project-based Section 8 HAP contract at or near the end of the HAP contract term 

If HUD awards program funding that is targeted for families living in specified units, the PHA must use the assistance for the families living in these units. The PHA must maintain records showing that the family was issued a HUD-targeted voucher.