The Adams administration says it will reopen the Section 8 waiting list sometime this year. Credit: Ivan Karpov / Unsplash

While the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) corruption scandal (involving the Feb. 6 arrest of 70 current and former NYCHA superintendents charged with taking bribes for no-bid micro-contracts) plays out in City Council hearings, a less shocking but more widespread housing issue is impacting New Yorkers: the lack of affordable housing.

But relief for residents hoping to get on the Section 8 waiting list is expected to come this year. 

In January, during his third State of the City address, Mayor Eric Adams said the city would start fully accepting Section 8 applications this year for the first time in 15 years. 

How many vouchers? Hopefuls could score one of the 1,000 vouchers offered each month. 

When? NYCHA and the mayor’s office couldn’t confirm the Section 8 waitlist reopening date by the time of this publication. 

Despite the lack of a clear timeline, considering how much this means for housing-insecure New Yorkers, we wanted to help prepare you to navigate what can be a complex process.

What is Section 8? 

  • It’s a federal rent subsidy. The funding goes from the federal government to the state to the municipality. It’s intended to enable folks who can’t afford market rent. The city says that, generally, families pay approximately 30% of their adjusted monthly income towards their rent share. NYCHA pays the rest. 

Getting into the program

  • Eligibility is based on a family’s size and gross annual income.
  • Recipients must use the voucher once issued within 120 days, or it will expire.
  • Recipients must be U.S. citizens or have permanent resident legal status. 
  • A potential landlord cannot reject your application if you are paying with a Section 8 voucher, but this does happen, despite being illegal. In 2023, reporters found properties in Astoria and Jamaica, Queens, that refused to accept housing vouchers.

Keeping your Section 8 home

  • People can continue to get help as long as they qualify. The vouchers don’t expire.
  • Once families move in, they have to comply with program requirements, including completing an annual certification, accommodating inspections, and allowing property owners to make needed repairs. 

How it works

Epicenter spoke with Rene Arlain, director of housing counseling at the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, to learn more about how the Section 8 vouchers work and might not work. Excerpts from our conversation are below, lightly edited for clarity. 

Epicenter NYC: What do most people not understand about Section 8?

Arlain: Here’s the thing: funding has been limited, cut for a while. So there have been no Section 8 applications readily available for the average renter. When I say the average renter, the renter and their family who are living in an overcrowded apartment. Or maybe where they live, the physical conditions are substandard, you know, lots of housing code violations.

Once upon a time, when there was significant Section 8 funding, folks could apply and submit an application. For more than a decade now, the only folks who really could access a Section 8 application were folks who are in the city’s shelter system or folks who can document that they are victims of domestic violence. Or the folks who are threatened witnesses in some sort of court case. But they need to be able to document that. 

Epicenter NYC: How do they document that for this purpose?

Arlain: Police reports, court records. If you’re in the shelter system, the shelter system usually has caseworkers assigned to help the residents to apply for different types of subsidies. Section 8 is a possibility, and there’s a program called City FHEPS. So the caseworkers are able to document for the applicant that they’re in the city’s shelter system.

Epicenter NYC: So you were saying that people experiencing homelessness, victims or survivors of domestic violence, and other groups have been prioritized in the Section 8 voucher application system?

Arlain: Yes, that’s always been the case — even when there was funding for Section 8, those categories were always priorities. And there was a certain secondary priority for folks who are living in overcrowded apartments or or they have poor housing conditions, lots of housing violations. Those folks were less of a priority.

Epicenter NYC: Besides that prioritization, how do people qualify in general for Section 8?

Arlain: Well, if you’re lucky enough to be able to submit an application, Section 8 normally would send a notification in the mail, that this is the priority that has been assigned to your application. 

Epicenter NYC: What if something changes once you’ve applied, like either your residence, income level or your household composition?

Arlain: First the application has to be acknowledged. 

It’s not going to be good if you move if you are in the shelter system, because then how are you going to get your mail from Section 8 if they actually issued a voucher for you? Once you’re in the shelter system, however, that’s when you need to notify the case worker there that maybe you already have an application in the pipeline. The caseworker may simply submit a new application. 

The folks who are in the program have to recertify their income status and their household composition status annually. If they don’t do the recertification, then the Section 8 office could close their case, which would mean the Section 8 program would no longer be issuing the check for its share of the rent. 

The city has given little information about when the Section 8 waiting list will open.
Credit: Phil Desforges / Unsplash

Epicenter NYC: Is there a concern that, when the city reopens its Section 8 application system, more landlords will leave the program? Do you anticipate that it will be harder for folks with these Section 8 vouchers to find landlords who will accept them?

Arlain: For people who eventually get issued a voucher in their name, it’s always a challenge to get an apartment where the owner or the property managers will accept the voucher, although it’s against the law to discriminate based on the source of your income or your job in New York City. Those are protected categories. Most people don’t report those types of practices, but they complain about it. They complain that they go to real estate agencies, they happen to know about private owners who have a private apartment for rent, but they’ll be told that the Section 8 voucher wouldn’t be accepted. 

For landlords who have had Section 8 voucher tenants, some of those folks continue to accept the Section 8 subsidy. Some, because of their experiences with the Section 8 program and/or the tenants, when the lease is up, they decide they no longer want to participate in the program. 

Epicenter NYC: Are there certain reasons they give?

Arlain: They’ve complained that, for example, in the initial lease agreement period and inspection period, with the Section 8, there’s significant paperwork. The inspection is based on the federal government’s housing standards, not the city’s or the state’s standards. So the owners have to comply with not only the city’s code standards but they also have to comply with the federal government’s housing code standards.

Also, they complain that when they start the program with a new tenant, there’s a delay for some reason with Section 8 issuing checks to the owners for the Section 8 share of the rent — two months, three months, four months delay. 

Epicenter NYC: Do you anticipate that the number of applicants for the next open Section 8 voucher application period might look different than in previous periods?

Arlain: I imagine it’s going to be huge numbers, because the system hasn’t been fully open for at least a decade. There are always renters trying to apply for the Section 8 subsidy. 

The other thing is, the mayor’s office announced that they’re gonna have X amount of dollars for Section 8. We don’t know how much that’s gonna be. We don’t know how it’s going to be administered. New York State, three years ago, had announced that it was opening up the Section 8 application process. Folks who applied were applying to get their names on the Section 8 waiting list. It was a lottery, so not everyone who applied would get on the Section 8 waiting list. 

The whole idea of this lottery process for Section 8 is similar to buying a lottery ticket. 

500 million people buy lottery tickets, but only a few people actually win the prize. That’s the same way they were handled a few years ago with the Section 8 waiting list lottery application process. 

We [Cypress Hills LDC] helped people apply to get on the waiting list. They had to do it online, though many folks were hoping they could fill out a physical form. 

From the 100 people we helped to apply, I’m only aware of two people who were selected from the lottery and are now, and have been, on the Section 8 waiting list.  

Who knows — the mayor’s office may handle it the same way the state handled it [three] years ago. 

For more information about Section 8, you can visit the city website here

Join the Conversation


  1. This is Something I’ve Been Saying 5 Years Ago If Newyork Don’t Bring Back Section 8 People Won’t Be Able Live And Developers Won’t Get Tax Breaks Opening Up This Program Is Great But Make Sure That Tax Payer Here And Folks With Disability And Homeless People Get Opportunity First Cause This Situation With these Migrants Gonna Cause Problems Natives Here Are Literally Getting Frustrated With System I’m Disabled And Been Homeless For 3yrs Dealing With Mental Issues As Well Haven’t Found Place Yet I’m Keeping My Fingure Cross I’m Just Saying Treat Folks Fair And Things Will Move Smoothly In Newyork….

  2. I would like to receive a section 8 voucher. Next year I will have custody of my grandchild during week while my daughter works. I am an honorably discharged veteran.

  3. Tomorrow I’m gonna first thing I’m gonna do. Is called down to section the office and sign an application. Because I had applied for housing and just because I got divorced They put me back on the waiting list and then they took me back off. I’m disabled. I have mental issue problems. And when they turn me away, That affected me more than anything else. Knowing that a couple months later or a year later I found out that I was took enough to list and I never got a letter from them.
    So instead of helping me out, they made me worse than what I was.

  4. I’m a senior living in a rent stabilized apartment for 46 years it is a 3 rd floor walk up and that has now become a problem. I’m 82 years old and have developed hip and sciatica problems. It has been extremely difficult for me to navigate the stairs and I’m afraid it will get worse. I don’t want to become a prisoner in my apartment. I need to be in an elevator building. I still very active and I work part time. I need a better quality of life.

  5. Hi I am on Ss disability and my son lives with me we live with my sister right now can I be notified when the section 8 voucer programs open up .

  6. I have Ss disability and my son and I live with my sister can I get notified when the program opens up?

  7. I am a 69 year old senior who would like to move to Atlanta Georgia to be with my family, but I am unable because I’ve had Cityfheps for 8 years now and I am not able to use my voucher in another state

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