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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get housing? What happens when I reach the top of the waiting list?

The Housing Choice Voucher program has a long waiting list of households that would like assistance paying rent. The current waiting list was created by lottery in spring 2008, and will probably last until 2012 at the earliest; initially, it was made up of 4,000 households.

In August 2009, when we had issued the maximum number of vouchers we are authorized by federal regulation to issue, we suspended the issuance of Housing Choice vouchers altogether. We have no way of knowing when we will resume issuing vouchers.

Although the wait will be long, if your household is on the current waiting list—that is, if you entered the lottery and won a position—you'll stay on the list until you are invited to actually apply for the program. The lower your number on the waiting list, the sooner you will be contacted.

When your household reaches the top of the waiting list, you'll be mailed an application packet that contains an application form and instructions on how to complete and return it. If the form is complete and signed, your background will be checked, including your employment and any criminal history. If the information from the background check shows that you are a responsible person, the next step is attending an orientation at our Central Office.

At the end of the orientation you will be issued a voucher you can take to a private landlord anywhere in the city of Seattle. From the date your voucher is issued, you will have 120 days to locate a suitable apartment or house and sign a lease with the landlord.

From the time you receive the application packet until you are issued a voucher typically takes from two to four months, depending largely on how quickly Seattle Housing Authority receives information requested from employers and others.

I'm a victim of domestic violence. Does this give me waiting list priority?

A household on the waiting list cannot jump over another household at all. (Households with the lowest number on the list are called in first.) However, once a victim of domestic violence reaches the top of the waiting list and is called in, their application and background check are given priority in order to issue them a voucher as quickly as possible.

If I'm issued a Housing Choice Voucher, can I use it outside of Seattle?

If you provided a Seattle address when you joined the waiting list, once you've been issued a voucher you may take it to any other housing authority. (This is called "porting out.")

If you did not provide an address in Seattle when you joined the waiting list, once you've been issued a voucher you must use it to lease a unit in Seattle for at least a year before you can port out. This is a policy of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

What if I have special needs?

Please tell us if you need assistance of any kind to access our services, and let us know if you need special features in your housing. (For example, we can often provide large print materials, wheelchair accessibility, customized interviews, and housing in specific locations.) If you need an interpreter or a translator, tell us, and we will provide one for you. We will make every effort to meet your needs.

How do I change my address with Seattle Housing Authority?

You must tell Seattle Housing Authority in person or in writing of any change in your address. To submit a change of address in person, fill out a change of address form at our Central Office:

Seattle Housing Authority
Housing Service Center
P.O. Box 19028
190 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle WA 98109-1028

Otherwise, write a brief letter that includes your name, Social Security Number, previous address, and new address. Fax this letter to 206-239-1770 or mail it to the Housing Service Center at the address above. Please note that changing your address with the United States Postal Service does not change your address with Seattle Housing Authority. You must update us separately.

May I add or remove others from my application?

You may add or remove people from your application by submitting the change in writing to the Housing Service Center at the address listed above. Please include your name and Social Security Number and the information to be changed.

Adding or removing people may affect your eligibility for some units. If the change affects your eligibility for a unit of a certain size (as measured by the number of bedrooms), you will be moved to the waiting list for the correct unit size. Your date of application stays the same.

How do I cancel my application?

You may cancel your application at any time by writing to the Housing Service Center at the address listed above. When cancelling your pre-application, please include your name and Social Security number and the program(s) for which you applied.

Can Seattle Housing Authority deny assistance?

Yes. Even if you can prove that you need housing, Seattle Housing Authoirity is required by federal law and regulations to refuse assistance if you do not qualify.

Does Seattle Housing Authority verify personal information?

Yes. At various stages of the application process, Seattle Housing Authority may verify all sources of your income, your credit records, your criminal history and your residential history. Seattle Housing Authority will not share your personal information with others.