Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to questions you may have about the housing application process, the housing waitlist, and more.
Scroll through the list to find your question. Once you find your question, click on the right hand plus sign to reveal the answer.
I have checked my status on the waiting list and my place on the list is lower than before, or has changed. Why?
Our Waitlist is based on application date and preference points. Someone may have applied that has more points than you, and they’re going to go ahead of you.
Points are based on the following criteria:
- Resident of Washington County = 20 points
- Working in Washington County = 20 points
- Elderly or disabled = 5 points
- Currently Employed* = 5 points
*(only applies to the Public Housing Wait List)
Why is the waiting list so long?
We have many applicants waiting for units to become available. There are also applications on the list that are inactive for a number of reasons, so the list may appear longer than it actually is in reality because of inactive applicants.
There is a Public Housing Family Wait List an a Public Housing Elderly Wait List. Then those two lists are divided into smaller wait lists based on family size, and how many bedrooms are needed:
The Family Wait List is divided by the following bedroom number units:
- 1 Bedroom Units
- 2 Bedroom Units
- 3 Bedroom Units
- 4 Bedroom Units
- 5 Bedroom Units
The Elderly Wait List is divided by the following bedroom number units:
- Efficiency Units
- 1 Bedroom Units
- 2 Bedroom Units
The longest waiting list is for the 2 bedroom family units, because those are the units needed by the most families, and currently we do not have enough available 2 bedroom units for the need right now.
When you apply for housing, you will be quoted the main wait list, not necessarily the individual wait list for the specific bedroom number unit that you need.
I applied this morning for housing. I went to check my place on the waiting list and it says that it cannot find my application. Why?
Whether you apply online or on paper, HHA still needs to process your application, check all required documentation, enter all application information into our system, and apply any possible preference points. It may take 2 to 3 weeks to get all the information processed.
No matter how long it takes for HHA to process your application, don’t worry, you still have the same application date.
What resources are available through HHA for veterans?
There is a program specifically designed for veterans called VASH. Because of this, veterans do not get special points on the public housing wait list. Click here for more information about VASH.
What types of housing does HHA provide?
Public Housing refers to the units that HHA itself owns.
Housing Choice Voucher (HCV):
HCV is the Section 8 program. Applicants who are eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher may choose their own housing by taking their voucher to any participating landlord.
Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (VASH):
VASH is a special program that goes along with HCV to provide veterans with housing opportunities.
Homeless and Terminally Ill:
Those who are homeless or terminally ill are eligible for a separate wait list within the HCV wait list.
Tax Credit Units:
Tax Credit Units (such as the CW Brooks building) have units based on percentage of tax credit, or different income limits.
- 30%- 1 bedroom unit; a resident can have an annual income of $16,020 and qualify for a 30% unit
- 40%- a resident can have an annual income of $21,360 and qualify
- 50%- a resident can have an annual income of $26,700 and qualify
- 60%- a resident can have an annual income of $32,040 and qualify
Gateway Crossings Community is not managed by the West Baltimore St. HHA office. They have an on-site office, and their own waiting list.
Does HHA provide emergency housing? What resources are available to homeless individuals?
We do not provide emergency housing. However, we do have a Housing Resource List. You can access the list here on our website, or get a copy in the HHA lobby. The list has the names of shelters in the area, and other complexes that have emergency housing assistance based at the complex that may have a shorter wait list.
Aside from the Housing Resource List, we may also refer you to the Community Action Council (CAC), which may be able to help you find a shelter or another means of emergency housing.
When the Section 8 wait list is open, there is a specific wait list for homeless individuals seeking Section 8 assistance (called the Homeless Waitlist) , and this list is much shorter than the general Section 8 wait list. If you are working with a homeless shelter and you come to HHA with verification that you are actively working with a shelter to find housing assistance, we will place you on the Homeless Waitlist.
What do I need to do to apply for housing?
Once you have completed the application, it will need to be processed by HHA. Once the application is entered into our system and any possible preference points are applied, you will be added to the specific wait list for the unit size that your family is eligible for. You will then be sent an acknowledgement letter. This letter will state that we have received your application, and give you your approximate wait time for receiving a unit. The letter will also let you know if you need to provide us with any further documentation, such as doctor information to verify a disability.
The next step is a background check. If you applied for a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV/Section 8), we do a local criminal check. If you applied for public housing, we not only perform a local criminal check, but also a national criminal check. We also perform a Sex Offender Registry (SOR) check. We check to make sure that you are a citizen or an eligible non-citizen.
If you are an ineligible non-citizen, you do not qualify for housing assistance. However, if there is at least one member in your family included on the application that is an eligible citizen, you may still qualify for assistance, and it will be based on that one eligible member.
If you apply for public housing and we run a national criminal check, you may be required to get finger printing.
If your background check does not come back clear (for example, if we find that you are a registered sex offender, a criminal you will be deemed ineligible, and you will be sent a notice letting you know that you are being withdrawn.
If you pass your background check, we will set up an Intake Appointment. This appointment is a pre-interview to see who your previous landlords were and do landlord references. If you get poor landlord references, you may be denied.
If you are denied housing for any reason mentioned above, you are eligible to request a conference to go over why you were denied, and allow you a chance to provide documentation to show HHA that we should overturn your denial and continue processing your application.
If your application is accepted and you receive acceptable landlord references, you will be put on the wait list where you will wait for an eligible unit to become available. You will be able to check your place on the wait list by clicking here.
Once you get close to the top of the wait list, we will send you a telephone interview letter that states that you are near the top of the wait list, and that you will need to call in to HHA on a certain day and time. During this phone interview, we will review your information, do a pre-qualification over the phone, and set up an in-person one-on-one enrollment interview with you. (Depending on the size of your family, we may request a group interview.)
Once we receive verification for all of the documents and info that you give us at the enrollment interview, we will notify you that you are eligible. At this point, you will just need to wait a little while longer for a unit that matches your family’s needs to become available.
Once a public housing unit that is the correct family size becomes available for you, we will send you an offer letter notifying you of the unit’s address, and asking if you would like to accept the unit.
You are allowed to turn down three units. If you turn down all three units, you will be removed from the waiting list and you must reapply for housing if you are still interested.
What do I need to bring for my enrollment interview?
At the in-person enrollment interview, we will collect necessary documentation. Some information we’ll need to collect from you includes, but may not be limited to, the following:
- Birth Certificates for everyone in the household
- Social Security Cards for everyone in the household
- Photo IDs for the adults in the household
- Proof of Income (TCA, Social Services, Social Security Income, or wages)
- Proof of Assets (bank accounts, stocks, bonds, CDs (Certificate of Deposit), retirement accounts, life insurance, etc. If you are elderly or disabled, you can also include any medical expenses that you are paying for.)
- Proof of Washington County residency
- Landlord References
We need this information in order to verify everything and process you towards the final steps of the waiting process.
I cannot find some of the documents I need for my enrollment interview. What should I do?
If you don’t have all of the documentation necessary when you come for your enrollment interview, you will be told what documents are still needed, and given time to bring them back. If you fail to bring back the necessary documents, you will be sent a drop for failing to cooperate.
How to obtain a photo ID:
If you do not have a driver’s license, you can go to the Motor Vehicle Administration (18306 Henry K. Douglas Dr., Hagerstown MD 21740) The MVA can issue you a photo ID, but you must provide your birth certificate and social security card to receive a photo ID. Click here to go to their website.
How to obtain your birth certificate:
We suggest that you go to the Washington County Health Department (1302 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown MD 21742) Click here to go to their website.
If you were born in Washington County, you will be able to get your birth certificate at the health department.
If you were not born in Washington County, the health department can help you to locate where you need to write to in order to get a copy of your birth certificate.
If you are homeless, Reach Cold Weather Shelter may be able to help you obtain a photo ID and your birth certificate. Click here to go to their website.
Will I have to pay a security deposit? If so, how much?
Once you accept a unit, you will be required to pay a security deposit. How much this deposit is will be based on one month’s rent. For example, if your rent will be $400 per month, your security deposit will be $400. The very lowest security deposit is $100.
If you cannot pay your security deposit, we can work with you to create a payment plan. We may be able to split the security deposit in half, so that half of the deposit is due before you move in, and the other half due the following month. We may also suggest that you go to an agency that may be able to assist you with payments. Some agencies that may be able to help you are the Community Action Council (CAC), Valor Ministries, or Reach Cold Weather Shelter. There may be other agencies listed on our Resource List, which you can access by clicking here, or by picking up a copy in the HHA lobby.
I was told my wait time would be 2 months (for example), but it has been much longer. Why?
Every wait time we give to applicants is approximate. We cannot predict when you will come to the top of the wait list, or when a unit your size will become available. There are many factors that go into the availability of a unit and how long it may take for the unit to be ready for you to move in. Please be patient.
I am not a verified Washington County resident. Am I still eligible to apply for public housing in Hagerstown?
Anyone is eligible to apply. However, if you are not a Washington County resident, your likelihood of securing public housing through HHA is much smaller than someone who is a WashCo resident. This is because the goal of the housing authority is to service the members of Hagerstown and the surrounding community. Washington County residents receive residency points, which means they will likely reach the top of the wait list much faster than non-residents.
What happens if any of my information changes after my application has been submitted and I'm placed on the waiting list?
If you have a change in your information while you are an applicant on the waiting list, you must report the change to HHA.
HHA has an Application Change Form available. You can access the form online by clicking here or you can come to the HHA office (35 W Baltimore St) and fill out a paper form. The form is gold, and is available in the lobby.
We have a separate Change Form for residents, so make sure to fill out the form that is specifically for applicants.
Possible changes you need to report are things like
- new phone number
- new address
- adding a family member
- removing a family member
- becoming qualified for disability
One of the most important changes that MUST be reported is a change of address. If you move, please let us know your new address as soon as possible. Every time we need to contact you, we do it through the mail. You do not want to miss a notification letter telling you you’re at the top of the wait list! If you move and do not notify us, we will mail to the last address we have on file, and you may be removed from the housing wait list because you didn’t let us know you moved and never responded. This happens quite a lot, so make sure you notify us if you change addresses while you are on the waiting list.
During the waiting process, if you have a change in household size, you must report this change to us. Once you have reported your household size change, you will be moved to a different wait list for an eligible unit size.
Guidelines for bedroom number qualifications are as follows:
For Public Housing:
- 2 children are allowed per bedroom provided that they are the same gender, and are within 5 years of age to one another.
For HCV/Section 8:
- 2 children are allowed per bedroom provided that they are the same gender.
I got a new job and my income has increased. How do I report this change, and how will it affect my housing assistance?
Any change must be reported by filling out a Change Form. There are separate Change Forms for Applicants and Residents, so be sure to fill out the correct form. The applicant change form can be accessed online by clicking here or by visiting the HHA lobby (35 W Baltimore St).
An increased income will change the amount that your rent will be based on, and may determine whether you still qualify for housing assistance or not.
If your income increases to the point that it is over the guideline for your family size, we will notify you that you are ineligible for assistance because you are over the limit (you make too much income). However, the income limit is pretty high, so you may not need to worry. A small increase in income is unlikely to make you ineligible for public assistance. However, any change in income must still be reported.
A change in income will change the amount that your rent is based on. If your income increases, the amount of rent you are expected to pay will also increase. However, you will not have to pay the new rent amount until three months after your income increases. For example, if you started a job in September, your rent will not increase until December. This way you can have time to adjust your budget and get ready for your higher rent.
If we find out that you failed to report an increase in your income, we will go back and find out when you began working and calculate how long it was between the time your income increased and the time we were made aware of the increase. You will be charged for the increased rent you would have been paying had you reported the change when you should have.
My household size has changed. How do I report this change, and how will it affect my housing assistance?
Any change must be reported by filling out a Change Form. There are separate Change Forms for Applicants and Residents, so be sure to fill out the correct form. The applicant change form can be accessed online by clicking here, or by visiting the HHA lobby (35 W Baltimore St).
A change in household size will change the size of housing unit that your household qualifies for. We need to know of any change in household size so that you can be placed on the correct waiting list. If you fail to report a change in household size and you are on a waiting list that you are no longer eligible for, you will be sent to the bottom of the list and must go through the waiting process again.
For example, if you are on the 3 bedroom unit waiting list but your child moves out and your family now only qualifies for a 2 bedroom unit, you will not be granted a 3 bedroom unit anyway, because it will need to be used for a larger family that needs all 3 bedrooms. You need to notify us of a household size change as soon as possible so that we can move you on the correct list.
If your household size decreases (a family member passes away, moves out, etc.), you must fill out a Resident Interim Change form, as mentioned above. If the family member is moving away, you must provide us with an address so that we know where that family member is going.
If your household size increases (you have a baby, your child moves back in, etc.) there are two different processes you may have to go through. If the family member that you are adding is a child, you only need to fill out the Resident Interim Change form. If the family member that you are adding is 18 years of age or older, we will need to perform a background and criminal check for them. This new member must fill out an application as if they were applying for housing on their own, but we will make note that they are being added to an existing household, so that they will not be put on the same wait list. They will be put onto our Add-On List.
IMPORTANT: An adult family member cannot be living in the unit with you until we have completed the Add-On process. Until your family member signs the lease with HHA, they must not be living with you. If your family member lives with you before the Add-On process is complete, they will be considered a Live In and you and your entire household could get into trouble, resulting in an eviction.
I have received an eviction notice or an application denial. What happens now?
Once you receive a notice of lease termination (eviction notice), you will have 30 days to move out.
Within the first 10 days of receiving your notice, you can request an informal conference with HHA to go over the reason for your eviction. At this informal conference, you have the chance to resolve the termination with the informal hearing officer.
If you go through the informal conference, and the termination is not resolved, you have the right to a formal hearing. At this formal hearing, you have the chance again to argue your case and attempt to resolve your termination.
If you still do not agree with the decision made at the formal hearing, the next step is to take your case to court where a judge will hear your case and make a decision as to whether or not you should be evicted.
For Applicants who are notified of an application denial:
Applicants who receive an application denial are only entitled to an informal conference with HHA. You must request this informal conference within 10 days of receiving the notice.
At the informal hearing, you can give all of your information to the hearing officer and explain your situation and argue as to why you should still be considered eligible for housing. The hearing officer will take your appeal to an Application Review Committee. The committee consists of 3 or 4 people from various departments within HHA who will get together to discuss your case and make a decision about whether or not you should be considered eligible or not. You will be notified of the decision within 10 days of the informal conference.
What is the difference between Public Housing and HCV/Section 8 housing?
With Public Housing, HHA is your landlord. We have our own properties with units owned wholly by HHA. If you apply for Public Housing, you will be placed on a waiting list for a unit in one of our properties.
- Noland Village
- Frederick Manor
- Douglass Court
- Parkside Homes
- Walnut Towers
- Potomac Towers
- CW Brooks Building
- Scattered sites all around Hagerstown
Click here to access the Our Properties page.
Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)/Section 8 Housing:
If you choose to apply for HCV/Section 8, you will be given a housing voucher. You can take this voucher to the landlord of a private unit. If you apply for HCV while living within the city limits, your voucher is considered portable and you can take your voucher anywhere in the United States, as long as the landlord agrees to rent with the Section 8 program.
If you were not living within the city limits when you applied for HCV, you must use your voucher in Hagerstown city limits for at least one year. After that year is up, you can request for your voucher to be made portable. Once your request is approved, you can take your voucher anywhere in the United States, as long as the landlord agrees to rent with the Section 8 program.
Once you find a place that you like, and the landlord agrees to rent to you, the landlord will receive a packet to fill out. The packet must then be turned in to HHA, and we will approve the packet.
Click here to access the Section 8 page.
Should I choose public housing or Section 8 housing?
Many people are more interested in Section 8 housing than public housing because Section 8 allows for more options when deciding where to live. However, what many people don’t realize is that rent and cost of living will likely be higher for Section 8 housing because you will be responsible for expenses such as your own utilities, and the full security deposit that is requested by the landlord.
With most of HHA’s public housing units, utilities are included or come at an incredibly reduced price.
There are pros and cons to both housing options, and you will need to discuss with your family which option may be best for you.
I have Section 8 housing but I can't pay my rent. What do I do?
Because the rent is based on income (between 30%-40% of your income), you should be able to afford whatever your agreed rent is. If you cannot afford that, you will need to seek assistance in order to budget your income better.
If you can no longer afford your rent because your income has decreased, you must fill out a Change of Income form so that we can assist you.
Are pets allowed in public housing?
You are allowed one domestic cat, or one small domestic dog. Your pet must weigh less than 25 pounds, and be no taller than 20 inches from paw to shoulder.
You are also allowed to have fish or small birds.
You are not permitted to keep spiders, snakes, reptiles, or other exotic animals as pets.
These are the guidelines for pets. There are different exceptions for companion or service animals.
IMPORTANT: You MUST register both pets AND service animals with the housing authority. We have a Pet/Animal Application Packet that you must fill out in order for us to confirm that your animal is eligible. This packet is available on our website, or in our office on W. Baltimore St. The application requires some of the following things:
- Evidence that your animal is licensed with Washington County
- Evidence that your animal is up to date with his/her rabies shots
- Confirmation that a vet has seen your animal and determined that it is not viscous or aggressive
- A full body colored picture of your pet
Click here to access the Pet/Animal page.
Once your Animal Application has been approved, you will receive a tag from the housing authority that you must wear on your pet so that HHA knows your pet is properly registered. Make sure your pet wears this tag so you do not get falsely reported as having an unregistered pet. Until the tag is on your pet, it is considered an unapproved pet.
- For elderly/disabled housing: Pet deposit is $150
- For family housing: Pet deposit is $300 plus a monthly $10 pet fee
- For companion animals and service animals, there is no deposit or fee required.
My neighbor has complained that my pet is disruptive. What will happen?
HHA will investigate the claim, and you may receive a pet citation. Once you receive two pet citations, you will receive a lease termination notice.
If your animal is found to be a vicious or dangerous pet, you will be asked to remove your pet for the safety of all residents. If you do not remove your aggressive pet, you will receive a lease termination notice.
Social Services has taken my children from me. How does this affect my housing situation?
Your housing situation will be dependent on whether you are working to become reunited with your children or not. If you are working to reunite with your children, we recommend that you get a letter stating that you are working to be reunited. We will take into consideration your children, the unit size that you would qualify for if they were living with you. However, we will not include the children in your household as dependents until they are living in the house with you.
You will need to notify us of the change in your household size so we can adjust your household in our records. This does not necessarily mean you would have to move to a smaller unit unless your children will definitely not be returning.
I am a smoker, but public housing facilities are non-smoking facilities. What do I do?
You cannot smoke within 25 feet of any window or door. This means absolutely no smoking inside. If you are a smoker, you must go outside and be away from all windows and doors in order to smoke.