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Housing and Homelessness

LA’s Section 8 Waitlist Lottery Is Now Open. Here’s What To Know Before You Apply

 A “for lease” sign advertises an available apartment on a two-story building.
A “for lease” sign advertises an available apartment in the city of Los Angeles.
(David Wagner
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With the rising cost of living, scarce affordable housing, and the upcoming end of COVID-19 eviction protections, it's a tough time to be looking for an apartment in Los Angeles.

But some Angelenos could get significant relief. The city opens its lottery for the Section 8 waitlist Monday, giving low-income tenants a chance to secure federal funding to subsidize their rent.

Applicants must meet income standards to qualify. A family of four, for instance, must earn no more than $59,550.

Anyone interested in a voucher will need an email address to apply online. Officials encourage those without internet access to apply at a local public library.

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Application Details: What You Need To Know

To apply, you’ll need to provide a Social Security number or an identification number for non-citizens (sometimes called an A-number). If you don’t have one, you can still apply as long as one household member has legal residency, even if that person is under 18. Residency information is not shared with other government agencies.

The application is open now and will close Oct. 30 at 5 p.m. Officials say applying more than once won’t improve your odds of securing a spot on the waitlist. It also makes no difference whether you apply as soon as the lottery opens or on the last day.

Still, to be on the safe side, it’s best not to wait until the last minute, just in case there are connectivity issues. Applicants who don’t make the deadline will have to wait until the application reopens. In the past, that’s taken several years.

Once the application period closes, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles will randomly select 30,000 applicants for the waitlist. By Dec. 1, all applicants will get an email letting them know whether or not they’ve secured a spot on the waitlist.

The housing authority will interview applicants who manage to secure a spot on the waitlist to verify their eligibility and provide them with vouchers as they become available. The process could take several months, or even years (more on that below).

The vouchers will cover a portion of the rent tenants owe to private property owners. Typically, tenants pay about 30% of their income on rent, with government funding making up the difference.

The Section 8 application is available in six languages — English, Armenian, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Tagalog.

After completing the application, you’ll see a confirmation number, which you should keep for your records. You’ll also receive a confirmation email.

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Here are answers to questions from readers. You can submit additional questions below.

Can I Apply For The Waitlist If I Don’t Live In The City Of L.A.?

Yes, but, according to the housing authority, lottery preference will be given to people who live, work, or have been hired to work within the city of Los Angeles. Households with veterans will also be prioritized.

Can I Transfer A Section 8 Voucher To Rent In Other Areas?

Yes, but voucher recipients are required to use the voucher to live within city limits for at least one year before relocating to other parts of the country.

If I Get On The Waitlist, How Long Will It Take To Get A Voucher?

The housing authority will contact applicants who make it on the waitlist for an interview to confirm their eligibility. After that, they will receive their voucher.

It could take several months or up to 10 years before this process begins. The timing depends on whether you’re at the top or bottom of the list, which is determined randomly through the lottery.

Yes, you read that right, it could take a decade. Wait times for Section 8 vouchers have been notoriously slow, not just in Los Angeles, but across the country. Because of limited funding — and because the need is so much greater than the supply of vouchers — housing agencies create waitlists for households interested in receiving assistance.

Can Convicted Felons Apply For Section 8 Vouchers?

Yes, but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the housing authority to conduct criminal background checks and has mandatory grounds for denial. These include:

  • being required to register as a lifetime sex offender
  • having been convicted for the manufacture or production of methamphetamine on federally-assisted housing
  • having been evicted from federally-assisted housing for “drug-related criminal activity” 
  • currently engaging in illegal drug use

You’ll also be denied a voucher if any household member:

  • was evicted from federally-assisted housing for drug-related criminal activity (including personal use or drug possession) within three years before the interview
  • has been convicted of illegal drug use or possession within one year of the interview
  • has ever been convicted for manufacture or production of methamphetamine, regardless of the location 
  • has been convicted of any crime involving the use of alcohol within one year of the interview

Do I Need To Apply Again If I’m Already On L.A.’s Waitlist?

No, but you can if you want to. The housing authority says they are nearing the end of 2017 waitlist and expect to complete it by mid-2023.

Do I Need A High Credit Score To Use A Section 8 Voucher?

A high credit score is not required to secure a voucher. However, property owners and managers may check credit scores as part of their screening process.

They can also consider factors such as past payment of rent and utility bills.

Strict tenant screening has made it difficult for voucher holders to find housing in Los Angeles. Most L.A. landlords do not want to participate in voucher programs. And even though rejecting applicants simply because they're using a voucher is illegal, many landlords create screening criteria that voucher holders can't meet.

This poses serious obstacles for tenants, who can end up having to forfeit their Section 8 vouchers if they don't find housing within a certain span of time, typically six months.

David Wagner contributed to this report.

What questions do you have about housing in Southern California?