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How Do I Apply for Subsidized Housing?

Rental housing where a tenant pays a portion of the rent and a government subsidy covers the rest of the rent is known as “subsidized housing.”  There are many types of subsidized programs.  A common example is housing subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) but owned and managed by a private company.  Subsidized housing is enormously helpful to people with low income because it allows them to pay less for rent and have more money for other living expenses.  As a result, many subsidized buildings have waiting lists.  When applying for subsidized housing, tenants should apply to several different places to improve their chances of getting into a unit as quickly as possible.

Identify the neighborhoods where you want to live and apply at the subsidized developments in those communities. You can get a list of federally subsidized housing developments by calling the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at: 800.955.2232 or visiting HUD’s Subsidized Apartment Search at

Request an application from each housing development separately. You may have to pick up the application at the building.

Collect birth certificates, Social Security cards, and income information for all household members.  You will need to submit this documentation with your application. Return your completed application with supporting documents to the same place where you got it.  Be sure to keep a copy and ask for a receipt that shows the date you delivered it.

Complete the application truthfully. For example, if you have a criminal record that has not been sealed, you must say so if asked on your application. Housing providers cannot automatically deny your application based on having a criminal record. However, they can deny your application if you provide false information. In addition, be honest about the last 3-5 places you have lived, even if you did not get along with a prior landlord.  Landlords are not allowed to tell another potential landlord their opinion of you as a tenant; rather, the prior landlord should just confirm you rented from them in the past.

Keep track of all the places you apply, the dates you apply, and any additional steps required to complete their application process.  You can also ask the housing provider to notify another person who is helping you (e.g. friend, family, case worker) about your application.

If your application for subsidized housing is denied, read the notice carefully.  You will usually have the option to appeal the decision, but must do so by the deadline given in the notice.  If your application for subsidized housing is denied because of past criminal history, you may apply for help from Legal Aid by calling 1.888.817.3777.

This article was written by Dani Lachina and appeared in The Alert: Volume 35, Issue 1. 

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