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Getting Subsidized Housing in California

The gap between the affordable rent for a person working minimum wage and the standard rent for an apartment in California is the third largest in the country.

In California, 46% of households rent. The minimum wage is $10.50. The Fair Market Rent for a one bedroom is $1,261, and for a two bedroom is $1,608. This means that affordable rent for someone working full-time on minimum wage in California is $546. A person earning minimum wage would need to work 92 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom rental home and 118 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental home.

Getting subsidized housing in California

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a list of Public Housing Agencies in California that can help low-income families secure government assistance through public housing or Section 8.


To receive Section 8 or public housing assistance in California, you must be a citizen of the United States or legal immigrant. Your income must be below 80% of the median income in your area. The majority of housing vouchers go to families earning less than 30% of their area’s median income. Priority is given to families with young children, pregnancies, or who are caring for the elderly or disabled, but all applications are reviewed individually on a case-to-case basis. Some cities have more specific qualifications; in Los Angeles, you must pass a criminal background check and cannot have any debt that exceeds 60% of your monthly income.


To apply for public housing or Section 8 in California, you must visit a Public Housing Agency. You will fill out an application with basic information about your household, income, and any specific situations (such as small children or disabled people in your family) that your area uses to offer prioritized assistance. You can view the applications for each PHA on its website.

Waiting list

If you're applying for Section 8, you may be placed on a waiting list. Depending on how many people in your area are seeking assistance, you may have to wait until the PHA opens its waiting list to new applicants. Public housing assistance is typically easier to secure and is often granted to people as they are waiting for their Section 8 application to be approved. You can look at the government's list of public housing developments in your area to see what's available. You can view which PHA locations are accepting public housing applications and which PHA locations are accepting Section 8 applications online.


When your Section 8 application is evaluated, you will have an interview. At the interview, a government employee will speak with you and review your paperwork to ensure that you still qualify for housing assistance. If your income level or family makeup has changed in the time you were on the waiting list, you will need to provide updated documentation. If you meet the criteria, your application will be approved.


Once you are approved for housing assistance, you will be able to move into a new place. Depending on where you live, you may have a list of buildings to choose from that already accept Section 8, or you may be able to select from a wider range of buildings. The building will have to undergo an inspection to make sure it meets the standards set by the government for Section 8 buildings. If it passes inspection, you will sign the lease and your landlord will sign an agreement with the government allowing you to use your Section 8 voucher for rent payments.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.