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There is a severe lack of affordable rental housing in Detroit and much of what policymakers refer to as "affordable" is not affordable to most Detroit residents. Due to such high demand, wait lists for affordable housing are often several years long. Navigating the disjointed "non-system" of affordable housing is exhausting and makes little sense.

What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing is generally defined as housing on which the occupant is paying no more than 30% of income for housing costs, including utilities.

  • In a system like the US that relies on the private, profit-oriented market to provide housing, housing subsidies (government funding for housing development or operations) are used to make housing affordable for people with no, low, or moderate incomes.

Subsidized affordable housing usually falls into these categories:

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV rental assistance program or tenant-based Section 8)

Rental assistance program that helps low income households pay for privately owned rental housing. The voucher holder is responsible for paying a portion of their rent equal to 30% of their household income; the voucher covers the remainder and is paid directly to the landlord. If approved for a voucher, a family is responsible for finding a landlord who will accept the voucher. The voucher moves with the tenant.

Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers (PBV program or project-based Section 8)

This rental assistance program reduces a low-income tenant's monthly rent to 30% of their income. PBVs differ from HCVs because the voucher is tied to the housing development or unit, not the tenant.

Public Housing

Public Housing is owned by the government and administered by local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). Rents are adjusted so they do not exceed 30% of the tenant's household income.

Some housing is subsidized but not necessarily affordable. For example, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program provides subsidies to private developers. In exchange for a tax break, developers are required to rent a portion of their units to people with incomes below the Area Median Income (AMI) in the metropolitan area. Because the AMI used to calculate rent payments in Detroit includes higher-income suburbs, these rents are usually not affordable to Detroiters. Learn more about AMI in this video.

How to apply or join a waitlist for subsidized affordable housing

**Note: Waiting lists are often several years long. Visit this page if you need emergency shelter.

  1. Complete a pre-application with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA)

  • You can find the pre-application here. By filling this form out, you will join an online waiting list. If waiting lists in all counties are closed, you cannot fill out a pre-application.

  • MSHDA maintains separate waiting lists for each county in Michigan and uses a preference ranking system to sort and select names from each waiting list. You may only apply once and your best chance of being selected is to apply for the waiting list in the county where you live or work.

  1. Apply or join a waiting list for a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV program or tenant-based Section 8) through your local Public Housing Authority (PHA).

  • The PHA in Detroit is the Detroit Housing Commission (DHC). Due to high demand and a lack of vouchers, DHC's waitlist is currently closed.

  • To apply for a Housing Choice Voucher outside of Detroit, visit one of these PHAs.

  • If you are selected, you'll have to provide lots of paperwork (birth certificates, ID, proof of income, etc.) for all members of your household.

  • **Note: It is important to keep your information current and updated with the PHA. If not, you will be removed from the list and have to start all over again.

  1. Apply or join a waiting list for a Program Based Voucher (PBV program or project-based Section 8)

  1. Apply or join a wait list for Public Housing

Did you know?

You can apply for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers even if you don't live in the county where it is being offered. You will have to live in that county for at least a year, then you can move to another county within the state.

Housing Locator Tools

Search for potentially affordable housing units:

Search for market-rate housing

Avoid rental scams

  • This page from Craigslist explains how to recognize and avoid scams, who to notify about any scam attempts, and provides examples of common scams used on their site.

  • Zillow and Apartments.com also offer tips for how to recognize and avoid rental scams as well as examples of common scams used on their websites.