Applying for Public Housing Help

How is public housing different from section 8? When considering your subsidized housing options, you may want to learn the difference between the most popular programs.

We’ve provided the major differences between these two popular housing programs to assist you in your search for housing assistance. 

The major difference between these two housing types is that while section 8 allows you to live in private units of your choice, public housing consists of government-sponsored dwellings.

You can move your section 8 subsidy with you to another location, but the subsidy for public housing remains with the unit, and you lose it once you leave.

Who Can Apply for Public Housing?

Public housing favors mostly the elderly and individuals who are disabled. Housing units could fall under state housing or federal housing.

For both of them, housing agencies look at age or disability, household size and status, income level, and immigration status.

In federal housing, either the head of the family or their spouse is required to be at least 62 years of age in most cases. While in state housing, one household member must be at least 60 years of age.

If you or someone in your household has a disability, you must be ready to prove it.

Public housing also much depends on the size of your household, unlike in section 8.

Families may not be considered for public housing if an apartment to suit its size is not available.

For elderly or disabled public housing, you can still apply to state housing if no one in your household has a legal immigration status.

For federal housing, on the other hand, at least one member of your family must be a citizen or have legal immigration status.

Where to Get a Public Housing Application 

The first step is to contact your local Housing Agency or HUD field office. Select the area you live and find the nearest office to you. Make note of the local HUD and Housing Agency contact information. You can then call, mail or email them for more information. Many Housing Agencies will have websites that you can fill out applications online. You can search online using the the name of your housing agency to see if they have a website. 

Your options to apply for Public Housing will depend on your local Housing Agency but they may include: 

  1. In Person: COVID and social distancing guidelines may have likely impacted your Housing Agency’c office’s ability to do in person applications. 
  2. Online Application: Hopefully your local housing agency will have the option. Be sure to list email addresses you can easily access since you will be asked to verify email and may get updates on your application through email. 
  3. By Mail; You can usually mail in an application to you local Housing Agency. 

How is Rent Calculated for Public Housing?

The idea of subsidized housing is to help low-income earners afford standard housing. Public housing calculates rent based on your income.

The percentage of the rent you pay would depend on whether your unit is a state or federal housing. You can ask the local housing agency to be sure of which it is.

For state public housing, if you’re elderly or disabled, you will be required to pay 30% of your net income or 25% if you pay for utilities.

If you’re a family, your rent will be 32% of your net income if you don’t pay for utilities, 30% if you pay for some utilities, and 27% if you pay for all utilities.

For federal public housing, residents are required to pay either 30% of their adjusted income or 10% of their annual income, depending on which is higher.

Most public housing tenants pay 30% of their adjusted income. Utility bills, if any, will be subtracted accordingly.

Public Housing Background Check

Public housing Agency carry out background checks, including past landlord references, credit reports and criminal records. Housing Agencies have the right to deny any public housing applicant based on their criminal records.

Individual housing agencies may implement their own rules, which if often stricter.

Housing Agencies run background checks on every member of a household over the age of 16. In cases where a household has a child without their biological parents present, some housing agencies may also run a check on the child’s biological parents.

Your application can be rejected if any of these people fail to meet the standards.

If you have been convicted as a lifetime sex offender or for producing methamphetamine in any federal housing, you will be permanently banned from public housing.

Your application may also be denied if you or a member of your household abuses alcohol or drugs regularly.

The only way to receive consideration with a criminal record is to have exhibited some mitigating behavior. It is left to you to prove extenuating circumstances by presenting documents that show you have put the past behind you.

Can You Get Public Housing with an Eviction?

Depending on the housing agency, getting public housing may be difficult with an eviction on your record or the record of anyone in your household.

Some housing agencies may dismiss your application, while others may accept your application on some grounds.

If your reason for eviction were due to money owed, you would have to settle that debt to be eligible again. In cases like that, you should contact your local Housing Agency to get more information.

However, if you or a member of your household were evicted for crimes relating to drugs, you are generally not eligible for public housing for the period of time specified by the housing agency.

Public housing and section 8 have many similarities but differ in a couple of ways, including rent calculation and eligibility.

It would be best if you weighed your chances thoroughly before applying for either one of them. If you have any questions about these programs, leave a comment.


  • I am currently renting a room in the city of Upland owners of the house are selling it and asking both tenants to find other housing I am disabled on permanent disability so my income is very low and it’s difficult to find housing I can afford any help would be greatly appreciated

    • Heidi, Sorry to hear of your urgent situation. Get in touch with your local HUD sponsored housing authorityAfter contacting your Housing Authority you can find out how to apply online, in person or by mail but first you need to check with your housing authority about your rental assistance programs in your local area.

      These articles might also be helpful! section 8 housing choice vouchers, public housing,

      After contacting your Housing Authority,You can find out how to apply online, in person or by mail but first you need to check with your housing authority about your rental assistance programs in your local area.

        • Hi Dolores, this is the part that gets a little confusing for many. To find an application online you will need to contact your local Public Housing Agency or local Housing Authority. You can find one by searching for “local housing authority” Then simply reach out to them and ask for a Public Housing application. Not all Housing Authorities have websites but many do and will allow you to fill out an application online. Best of luck to you!

    • Hi Anothony, we suggest that you try reading our article The Steps to Section 8

      Contacting your local Housing Authority would be our suggestion if you think you qualify for Section 8 and Public Housing Follow this link to locate your nearest housing authority, contact them and see what you can do to apply for open housing waitlists in you area. We hope this helps.

    • Hi Valerie, it sounds like you should contact your nearest HUD office or local Public Housing Authority and apply for a Section 8 housing choice voucher.

      This article could help you understand the steps to take The Steps to Section 8.

      Best of luck and god bless!

    • Hi Paula, you are most welcome! Check out our article on the steps to take for applying for section 8 The Steps to Section 8

      In short the next step for you will be to contact your local Public Housing Authority. You can do that with the help of HUD’s data base or try a google search of “housing Authorities in your area”

  • I need to get low budget income housing rather quickly in Edmond,OK. How dp I get started on this process? I have to move no later than Nov. 14th.

  • Me and my daughter recently had to move out of our home because my husband left after 26 years and didn’t pay any of our bills he said he paid the rent but that wasn’t the case so now I am staying wherever I can and my daughter is staying at one of her friends house .I miss her greatly we have never been apart I do work for Amazon part time it I am in desperate need of a place to go I never would have thought this would happen and I feel I failed as a parent because we have nowhere to go so I am trying every way I know how to find something for me and her so we can be together afain

    • Hi Lisa, we are so sorry to hear of your troubles. What we suggest is contacting you local Housing Authority and start your application process. Your situation is urgent and your local HA may move you into housing immediately. We think this article on I Need Emergency Housing might benefit you and also read this article if you need help locating your local Public housing Authority The Steps to Section 8

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