What is Public Housing?
Public housing is a program for elderly people, disabled people and people with very low incomes.
In a public housing apartment, you still have to pay rent, but the less money you make, the lower your rent will be. If you make almost no money, your rent can be as low as $25 a month.
Because public housing is truly affordable housing, and because there is a short supply, it sometimes takes a very long time for there to be a vacancy. Once you start living in public housing, you can stay unless:
Many people are confused about what it means to live in public housing. When they hear that someone lives in "the projects," they imagine some high-rise apartment building. The public housing projects in Texas don't look anything like that. There is not a single high-rise public housing project in Texas except for a few developments for the elderly.
There are three main problems with public housing. First, there is not nearly enough public housing to provide an apartment for every low-income family that needs one. Second, many of the apartments were built many years ago so they are often small and not as "nice" as newer apartments. Public housing was often built in very poor neighborhoods. Third, a few public housing authorities don't do a good job managing their apartments (just like some private landlords don't do a good job managing their apartments).
Call or visit the housing authority to apply. First, you have to get in touch with the housing authority in the city where you want to live.
When you call or go down to the housing authority, one of two things could happen:
a) They ask you to fill out an application. The housing authority will give you their application form. You can fill out the form yourself, or someone who works for the housing authority can fill out the form for you. Either way, you will have to answer a lot of questions, and you will have to bring copies of documents proving that the information you provide is correct. For example, you may have to bring pay stubs to prove that what you tell them about your income is really true. The housing authority should tell you what documents you need to bring with you when you come to fill out the application. They may also ask you to get a copy of your criminal background record. This is because most housing authorities will not rent to people who have been convicted of certain crimes. The housing authority will tell you how to get a copy of your criminal background record. You should get together all the documents and answers to all the questions before you go to the housing authority to fill out an application.
b) They tell you that the waiting list is closed and you have to come back later. Sometimes the housing authority decides to stop adding names to the waiting list because it is too long. If they tell you the waiting list is "closed" you should ask them when they expect it to "open" back up. You should contact the housing authority fairly often to find out if the list is open.
In major Texas cities the housing authorities often only open the waiting list to accept a few hundred names and then close it. When this happens, people sometimes line up outside the housing authority all night before the list is opened so they can be assured of getting their name on the list.
Once you complete the application, the housing authority decides whether to offer you an apartment. There are some general rules that all housing authorities have to follow in making this decision.
For one thing, they aren't allowed to let you stay in public housing if your income is too high. The government measures your income using something called an "Area Median Family Income (AMFI)." Basically, the AMFI for a given city is the amount of money that a typical family in that city makes per year. The housing authority isn't allowed to accept anyone whose income is over 80% of AMFI.
The housing authority is also allowed to make up some of its own rules about how to decide whom they should accept. The only way to find out about the housing authority's exact policies is to read its management plan. Anyone has a right to read the housing authority management plan, but some housing authorities may charge you for the copy.
Housing authorities can decide to let certain people into public housing in front of others. People who get in before others are said to have a "preference for admission." Some housing authorities have preferences; others don't. The only way to find out for sure is to ask to read your housing authority's "administrative plan."
Some examples of local preferences are for:
These are just examples. Each city can decide which preferences to set. The housing authority is supposed to explain their preferences to you and give you a chance to show that you qualify. Still, it's probably a good idea to specifically ask about preferences when you apply. Be sure to give the housing authority any information that might prove that you qualify. If you qualify for a preference, you may get an apartment much sooner than you would have otherwise.
There are only 66,746 public housing apartments in Texas, but there are over 350,000 low-income Texas families living in very bad housing conditions. Since there aren't nearly enough apartments for everyone who needs one, most housing authorities have to keep a waiting list. Sometimes these waiting lists can be very long. It may take years of waiting before your name comes up. The key to getting in is to be patient and to make sure the housing authority knows where to find you when your name finally does come up.
Each time you move, you have to tell the housing authority where they can reach you. If the housing authority tries to call you and can't, you can be dropped from the list and will have to start all over again. If you are moving from place to place on a regular basis, give the housing authority the name and address of someone who you trust to contact you right away.
If you made it this far in the process, the housing authority will now offer you an apartment. Some housing authorities give you a number of different options; others only give you one. The housing authority's policies are printed on its written management plan.