Rules for Electronic Waiting Lists at Section 8 Properties

In most cases, HUD projects are required to maintain waiting lists. A waiting list is a formal record of applicants for housing assistance that identifies the applicant’s name, date and time of application, selection preferences claimed, income category, and the need for an accessible unit. The waiting list may be kept in either a bound journal or a computer program. While many of the HUD waiting list rules apply to both the manual and electronic waiting lists, some are unique to the electronic lists.

Setting Up the List

There are two main issues to consider when setting up an electronic waiting list:

  1. How to maintain the list – you can use a spreadsheet or specially designed software. If special software will be used, there are some highly recommended features:
    1. Tracking History: all changes made to the waiting list are tracked;
    1. Handbook Rules are Built Into the System: this alerts the user when a change is being made to the list that violates HUD rules;
    1. List Filtering: allows the list to be sorted by various categories including unit size, applicant age, and income categories;
    1. Integration: allows applicant information to be keyed into the system only once;
    1. Reports: e.g., comparing information like precertified applicants and yearly turnover;
    1. Usability; and
    1. User Control: limits password access to selected staff users.
  2. How to convert a manual to an electronic waiting list – ensure that no applicant names are lost or misspelled and the list’s order is not changed. Once the manual list is transcribed to the electronic lists, the manual list should be retained for at least 36 months.

Meeting HUD Requirements

Primary HUD rules include:

  1. Include required information:
    1. Name of head of household;
    1. Date and time application was submitted;
    1. Applicant’s preference status;
    1. Applicant’s annual income level for income targeting purposes (e.g., ELI, VLI, or LI);
    1. Whether the applicant needs an accessible unit, including the need for accessible features; and
    1. Unit size needed.

Note that the applicant’s race/ethnicity/gender/family size should not be included on the waiting list. Include applicant phone number, address, email, and date of contact on the list.

  • Explain all changes – this includes why applicants were selected, withdrawn, rejected, or had family status changed. Any list should include a comment section.
  • Document all changes – the following methods for documenting changes should be used:
    • Use a “data backup function” that records the time and date that changes are made to the list;
    • Print a record of the list at least monthly to show each applicant’s place on and selection from the list. A copy should be made each time an applicant is added to or selected from the list. The copy should include the time and date of the printing. Keep a copy in the applicant file and central waiting list file. If there has been no change to the list, keep a copy in the waiting list file only.
    • Re-sort and print the list after making changes in an applicant’s status, such as changes in family composition and unit size.
    • Both before and after an applicant is removed from the list the list should be printed and preserved.
    • If the list is printed monthly to document the changes, you should also file a copy of the monthly rejection letters with the printouts.
  • Implement safeguards –  the following safeguards are not required, but are recommended:
    • Limit password access to only staff members who maintain the waiting list;
    • The system should track the time and date each change is made to the list and should identify the staff member who made the change;
    • Store hard copies in a secure location;
    • Backup the list every time it is modified;
    • Store back-ups both on and off site; and
    • Take steps to avoid staff manipulation.
      • Print out the list periodically and compare it to the previous printout to detect any inappropriate changes. This should be done at least every few months.

An electronic waiting list is a convenient, comprehensive, and safe way to maintain a project’s waiting list. As long as the procedures and recommendations noted above are adhered to, the use of an electronic waiting list is often preferable to manual waiting lists. Projects that still use manual waiting lists should give consideration to converting to an electronic system, which, in the long-run, will make life easier for onsite staff.