Public housing is affordable rental housing owned and operated by a housing authority. Tenants pay rent based on their income and family size. They must report any changes in income and family makeup and have the right to a hearing if any issues arise. The housing authority can end the lease only with a valid reason.
motenanthelpLast updated 06/23/2023
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What is public housing?
Traditional public housing is rental housing owned and operated by a housing authority and funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Sometimes the housing authority contracts with a management company to provide management services for the rental housing.
Can I get into public housing?
To apply for public housing, you must complete an application. The applications may be located at the housing authority’s main office or at the rental office for each public housing apartment complex.
Only low-income families or persons are eligible for public housing. Applicants must qualify as a family, an elderly person, or a disabled person. In order to see whether an applicant qualifies for public housing, the housing authority will gather information including, but not limited to family characteristics, income and assets, citizenship or legal immigration status, criminal history, and rental references.<>
If you do not qualify for public housing, the housing authority must notify you in writing, tell you its reason for denial, and give you an opportunity for an informal hearing.
Once you qualify, the housing authority will put you on a waiting list if no units are available. You must then wait until a unit becomes available, sometimes several years. Some housing authorities give preferences to persons who are disabled or elderly and the waiting lists may be shorter. If you move while you are waiting for a unit, make sure you notify the housing authority in writing that your address has changed. If your household size changes while you are waiting for a unit, make sure you notify the housing authority in writing. Keep a photocopy of your notice.
Living in public housing
Once a unit is offered, and if you accept it, you will enter into a lease with the housing authority. Your rent will be based on your income and family makeup. In most cases, your rent will be 30% of your family’s monthly adjusted income (monthly income minus certain deductions). Family income can include employment income, unemployment compensation, monthly amounts received from social security for any family member, TANF benefits, child support, and pension. The only people allowed to live with you are the people named in your lease. Leases must have a 12-month term.
Requirement to report income yearly
Once a year the housing authority will reexamine your income and family circumstances to see whether you still qualify for public housing, and if you do, recalculate your rent based upon any changes.
Requirement to report income changes
If your income or family makeup changes after you attend the annual reexamination, in most cases you must report this change to the housing authority. For your protection, you should report changes in income and family size in writing and keep a photocopy of your notification. Failure to report changes in income may be grounds for lease termination or retroactive recalculation of your rent. If you are not sure whether you should report your change of income, then ask the housing authority. If you are entitled to a rent decrease, the decrease will take effect the first day of the month following the date you reported the change. If your rent will be increased, and if you reported the increase in a timely manner, then the housing authority must give you at least a 30-day notice of the rent increase.
Unless terminated, a public housing lease must be automatically renewed for a period of 12 months.
Right to a hearing when there is a problem
If you have a grievance, make your written request for a grievance hearing as soon as possible. For your protection, you should make your request in writing and keep a photocopy. At the informal meeting you and the housing authority will try to identify the problem and work out a solution. If you reach an agreement, for your protection the agreement should be in writing. After the informal meeting, the housing authority must provide you with a written summary of the meeting, the result of the meeting, and the reasons for its decision. The summary should give you the opportunity to request a formal hearing.
If you are not satisfied with the results of the informal meeting you can request a formal hearing. For your protection, you should make your request for a formal hearing in writing and keep a photocopy. At a formal hearing you should have the opportunity to present evidence and arguments in support of your position to an unbiased decision-maker. After the formal hearing, the decision maker must prepare a written decision which includes the reasons for its decision.
When can the housing authority terminate my lease?
The grievance procedure also applies to lease terminations. If you receive a notice of lease termination from housing authority you have the opportunity to request an informal meeting. If the housing authority wants to evict you due to criminal activity, then you may not have the right to participate in the grievance process and may be limited to contesting the eviction in court.
If the housing authority wants to terminate your lease, the housing authority must give you a written notice of lease termination. The notice must tell you when to move, the reasons for termination and whether or not you have the right to request an informal meeting.
The housing authority must have “good cause” not to renew your lease or to terminate your lease before the lease ends.