How to Find the Right Home Through HUD

How to get low income housing fast is often a key concern for new HUD housing assistance recipients.

This can be true because they:

  • Are in unsafe, unsanitary or inappropriate housing.
  • Are unstably housed and in need of new housing before their current situations become non-viable.
  • May have been waiting for assistance for some time before funding became available.
  • Have a limited amount of time in which to secure housing using their awards once those awards are issued.
  • Are responsible for finding a property that meets HUD standards and which is owned or managed by a landlord willing to work with the local PHA.

Finding the right home can be extra stressful for HUD recipients if they:

  • Are in a market with limited housing stock.
  • Have special physical or geographic housing needs or limits.
  • Have physical, mental, emotional or logistical challenges that make property hunting, contract negotiation or other essential steps in the process unusually difficult.

Fortunately, in addition to helping applicants work through the HUD housing application process, PHA representatives can assist award recipients in sourcing, negotiating and moving into HUD-approved low-income houses or apartments.

What to Do Before You Look at Section 8 Listings

The quickest and easiest way to find HUD-approved housing is to ask your Public Housing Agency (PHA) for their pre-approved list of low income apartments for rent. By starting with pre-screen properties, you can significantly shorten the amount of time it takes to conduct your housing search and avoid worrying about the numerous factors that might disqualify a potential property from HUD subsidization.

Before you review your PHA’s list of Section 8 houses for rent, however, there are several important steps you can take to further reduce the amount of time it takes to find your new home.

  1. Review the limits of your award with your PHA representative. All HUD housing awards come with restrictions. These restrictions include limits on the size of the property you may rent or lease using HUD funds, typically expressed by the maximum number of bedrooms allowed, and the geographic region within which you must live, among other things.These limits are based on your income, family composition and other information you provided with your initial application. Understanding these limits can help you easily eliminate prospective housing options from your list right away. For example, if you have been approved for a one-bedroom property, you can automatically remove apartments on the Section 8 listings with two or more bedrooms from consideration. This will reduce the number of properties for you to look at and allow you to make a decision more quickly.
  2. Narrow down the geographic limits of your search, if applicable. Do walk or ride your bicycle to work? Do you have children that you want to keep in the same school district they currently attend? Or is there another school that you would like for them to be able to attend? Is it important that you live near family, public transportation stops or certain services?Your answers to these questions may highlight the benefits of giving priority to suitable housing in a particular neighborhood. You can use this information to prioritize your search options or to choose between several similar HUD homes for rent.
  3. Make a list of any other non-negotiable considerations. Only you can decide what is most important to your and your family when it comes to choosing housing that feels safe and is a good fit for your needs. Make a list of any other personal priorities you have for housing. While it may not be possible to find housing that satisfies all of your desires, having a clearly ranked list can help you quickly and effectively evaluate your options and make good choices.

Learn About HUD Homes and Apartments for Rent

Once you have reviewed your award limits, which are based on your HUD housing application information, and your personal needs and preferences, you are ready for the next step. Ask your PHA representative for their pre-approved list of low income properties for rent in your region. Once you have the list, take the following steps.

  1. Cross off any properties that fall outside the limits of your award. Your PHA representative can assist you with this, if needed.
  2. Highlight properties that fall within your preferred geographic area. Ask your PHA representative for assistance if you need help determining which properties fall within a given school district or other criteria you have set.
  3. Check or highlight properties that meet one or more of your personal top priorities. If this information is not available, take the list with you when you visit properties as a reminder of things to look for.
  4. Select three or four properties to visit. Pick properties from the HUD homes for rent listings that you highlighted as being within your preferred area and, if possible, that you checked as meeting your personal priorities, as well. Contact the landlords for those properties using the information provided on the PHA list and schedule appointments to visit them in person.You may want to schedule your appointments for times that your spouse or a PHA representative can go with you to assist. You may also wish to take a list of questions or things to remember to look for when you go.
  5. Choose a property and begin the rental or leasing contract process.

How to Search for Low Income Apartments for Rent on Your Own

You are not required to use your PHA’s list of low income apartments for rent when searching for or selecting housing. You are free to search on your own using any and all resources at your disposal, and to negotiate the leasing process with any landlord willing to work with your local PHA.

However, if your goal is to get low income housing fast, it is important to keep in the mind that searching on your own will almost certainly take longer than using your PHA’s pre-approved list. Even if you find housing quickly, unless you are fortunate enough to coincidentally find a pre-approved property, you will lose time waiting for your PHA to visit, assess and approve the property and for the landlord to work through the process of committing to work with HUD.