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Senior Housing Waiting Lists: How to Get on Them and Get Approved

This article is part of our continuing “Ask After55.com” series. See the bottom of this article for information on how you can submit a question for consideration.

As the senior population grows, so may the need for senior housing. Currently, about 15 percent of the U.S. population is 65 years or older. That’s expected to increase to 21 percent by 2030. So either more senior apartments will be built, or senior housing waiting lists will get longer.

senior couple looking over documents

For some seniors, these lists already are long enough. For example, in Minnesota, the Dakota County Community Development Agency announced that, beginning June 1, 2017, waiting lists for its Senior Housing Program will close for at least a year. While this scenario plays out in some areas of the country, such as New York, other areas don’t have waiting lists. If they do, you can put your name on a list in hopes of a vacancy.

Several After55.com readers have written to us recently asking about senior housing waiting lists:

“How do I get on a waiting list?”

“How can I speed up the process?”

“Should I apply now?”

“What are my options?”

We’ll address those questions in this article. Note, however, that your experience may depend on your situation and the type of senior housing you need. For instance, low-income senior housing (subsidized, public and Section 8) is more likely to have waiting lists. Market-rate, non-subsidized senior housing is less likely to have waiting lists. We’ll discuss those differences later.

About Senior Housing Waiting Lists

senior housing waiting list stamp

When looking to move into a senior community, you could be put on a waiting list because the location is at capacity. Obviously, it’s hard to plan your move when this happens. If you or your loved one needs immediate care, other arrangements may have to be made.

If you get on a senior community’s waiting list, find out how that facility uses its list, as details differ between communities. You may be required to submit a refundable holding fee. Lists are typically first-come, first-served. However, if you have special circumstances, the community may be flexible enough to accommodate you.

While putting your name on a waiting list too early usually isn’t a bad thing, putting it on too late is. That’s especially true if you are on a timeline. Getting your foot in the door will give you or your loved one peace of mind. In most instances, being on a waiting list does not bind you to move in, so it may be worth your time to secure a spot.

Once You’re on a Waiting List

So you’ve applied for senior housing and your name is on a waiting list. Now what?

For subsidized senior housing, the local housing authority should be able to tell you when an apartment will be available. Other senior housing communities and programs may be able to give you an estimate. However, they may not be required to contact you until your name reaches the top of the list. It’s in your best interest to keep in contact.

Once your name gets closer to the top of the list, the senior community or housing agency may do background, credit, and reference checks. The same may go for those living with you. Periodically, you may be contacted by the property manager or housing agency about your interest in staying on the waiting list. If you do not respond by their deadline, you could be removed.

Low-Income Senior Housing Waiting Lists

As noted earlier, waiting lists and procedures may differ between low-income senior housing and market-rate senior housing. For instance, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has its own requirements when it comes to filing applications and selecting prospective tenants from waiting lists. These include:

  • Low-income senior facilities must have a Tenant Selection Plan for accepting pre-applications and applications.
  • This plan should outline any ranking, rating, or combination of the two that will determine how applicants are chosen from the list.
  • For Section 8 senior communities, the procedures used to select “income-targeted” requirements must also be outlined. This includes when and how applicants are skipped to make room for an extremely low-income household.

Seniors putting their names on these waiting lists are expected to include income and household information, as well as the circumstances for needing this type of housing. Unlike other kinds of senior housing, a deposit is not required.

As a reminder, waiting lists can open or close at any time.

Market-Rate Occupancy and Waiting Lists

older couple holding keys

Compared with low-income housing, where waiting lists are more likely, market-rate senior housing properties generally have more openings. Market-rate properties are communities where, unlike many low-income properties, rents are not subsidized or adjusted based on your income.

According to the National Investment Center,  for the first three months of 2017, the national senior housing occupancy rate was 89.3 percent, so nearly 10 percent of available apartments were open. That’s the lowest occupancy rate since mid-2013. The occupancy rate for independent living properties (90.9 percent) is higher than that of assisted living (87.2 percent). So if you’re looking for assisted living, you may have more options.

The good news overall is that, planning for retiring baby boomers, senior housing companies are building more communities. Nearly 4,800 senior-housing units were added in the early part of 2017. Another 2,800 were started. The pace of building is the fastest since at least 2006, NIC reports.

So, for many future residents, senior housing waiting lists might not be a concern.

What Are Your Senior Living Questions?

Ask After55 is a monthly feature of After55.com by correspondent Mary Beth Adomaitis. Submit your questions for consideration in one of two ways:

– Comment below on this article. (Your question will be displayed publicly, so we suggest that you don’t include personally identifying information.)

Fill out this form. (Your question will be sent to us privately to be considered for a future Ask After55.com article. Note, however, that we are not able to respond to submitted questions personally, especially on individual situations.)

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  • Mary Beth Adomaitis

    About Mary Beth Adomaitis:

    Mary Beth Adomaitis a freelance writer living in Southern California. She has written about senior topics for several senior living websites. She also has a blog, Unwrinkled Hearts, which was started after her mother-in-law passed away in 2015. It focuses on elderly living in the 21st century. Mary Beth has been a writer/journalist for more than 25 years, lending her talents to companies such as The Los Angeles Times, where she also served as a copy editor and graphic designer.

    Comments

    1. Esther Fiske says:

      Hi , i would like to know where I can apply in the area of San Diego. Oceanside, San Marcos area o any place close to that area. Chula Vista , Mission Bay, Calrsbad.

    2. Donald Walters says:

      I am 65 years of age and I live in a regular complex and is is very nosy. I want to move to a senior living complex in Reno/Sparks Nevada. I on a fixed income and I am no rich, is there any complexes around that I might be able to get on a waiting list. Thanks in advance for any help on this. Thanks again Donald

    3. Hi Mark, my parents are 70 and 72 years old with no any income and never worked before. but they are permanent residents in the US for two years. Can they apply for the senior home? Thank you!

    4. Debby weaver says:

      Most age requirements for senior housing is 62 is this for everywhere? I found senior place still waiting for call back to find out. Thank you Debby from hurlock md

    5. Althea Thomas says:

      I am in the Powder Springs, Ga area. Looking for housing. I am on a fixed income and am 69 years of age. I’ve raised my children and lost my husband. Just want to live, peaceably.

    6. My name is Debra I turned 57 years of age July this year. I lost my job in November of 2016. There is so much more in the history of my losses, financially and medically. I am keeping myself above water right now and struggling. Straight to the point I need to reside in a apt. that is less than 500.00 a month in order for me to prepare for death. I am being very sincere. Reach out to me if possible. Thank you.

      • Hello, Debra.

        You’ll want to contact your local city or county housing authority, which administers public or subsidized housing based on income. You can locate your local housing authority here: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/pha/contacts

        This article includes more information about low-income housing: https://www.after55.com/blog/how-find-low-income-senior-housing/

        You also might want to contact your local community service board.

        – Mark, After55.com

      • Diane Grillo says:

        I don’t know if you are in San Antonio or not but this is the info anyhow. I live in a complex that is owned by the Caesar Chavez Foundation. I am in SA and only pay 514 for a cute, bright apt. I know that if you qualified it would be less for you. The Foundarion is based in California and has properties in several states. Here is a general phone # in CA., but if you are in SA call Villa Rodriguiz where I live. Its NE on Nacodoches outside 410. Villa #210-657-4086
        CA#213-362-0260. I hope this helps in some way. Email me if you like.

    7. Carla Kuamoo says:

      Hi. I am assisting my senior friend who is on Disability in the state of Florida. Currently lives in Brandon but wants to relocate near her daughter in St. Augustine. Can you please send information on discounted rental apartments for seniors? Thank you

    8. Delores Arnold says:

      Hi my name is Delores I’m 60yrs young I’ve got health problems I’m not able to work anymore so i do have a case pending for s.s.d.i. But in the meantime I’m penniless and homeless I’m in the Okla.City area I would be very appreciative for any information in this area thank you in advance. D

    9. Brandi Wilson says:

      Hello: First, thank you for taking time to answer questions and offer guidance on this matter! I’m a concerned daughter trying to help my mother find more affordable housing. My mom is 64 and lives in a regular (non-senior, market rate) apartment in Burbank, CA. She is struggling to make her rent payments (the thought of that is keeping me up at night!) We have looked into new buildings that have “low income units” set aside, but as it turns out, doesn’t meet the income requirement for those units. So she’s in between a rock and a hard place–she doesn’t make enough money to afford her “market rate” apartment, and she makes too much money to qualify for a “low income” apartment. I don’t know what to do, so I’m curious what advice you would give for someone in her position. Thanks again.

    10. I live in a retirement village that is seen to be outstanding and hence the waiting list is extremely long. We have three times our total capacity wanting to come in!
      Has any community managed to handle this kind of problem successfully? We need to tell MOST of the folk on the WL that they will never be accommodated. How to give early enough warning that is simple to understand is the problem. Please help me find ways to achieve this without damaging the reputation of the village. Reg South Africa

      • That’s a good question, Reg.

        Readers: Do you have suggestions? How can a senior community best communicate to prospective residents how long the wait on a waiting list will be?

        – Mark, After55.com

    11. Barb Wallace says:

      I am a 61 year old (today!) disabled (above knee amputee, or AKA) individual looking for an apartment in the greater Cleveland area. I’d be willing to move as far south as Akron or Canton, but prefer closer to Cleveland. I am very low to low income (depending on the scale) with SSDI at just under $20K. I would like to get into a development managed by a private company as the area’s public housing agencies either have closed their waiting lists or have a two or more year waitlist. If you have any information on these types of units I would greatly appreciate your help. I have gone through the HUD sites and they don’t list subsidized projects. All they list are public housing agencies and general information for how their programs work.

      I am looking at a December 1 move-out date. If absolutely necessary I can extend it to January 1st, but no later than that. Currently a family member subsidizes my rent but that will end November 30th. For now I at least need a one bedroom place until a 2BR subsidized unit opens up. I need a second bedroom as a place to use and store the exercise equipment I need to do physical therapy to help me walk with my prosthesis. As well, I need a small part of that room for a drawing table. Drawing helps relieve my stress and depression. I have medical documentation for those needs. If I am stuck getting a 1 BR, I will have to give up my dining table and chairs so I could use that space for my therapy needs. My ultimate preferences are: multi-cultural, intergenerational, mixed use, mixed income complex; off-street parking; first floor unit; can be tower or high rise unit on a higher floor as long as there are two or more elevators (in case one is out of operation); all one level; in-unit W/D or hook-ups so I can do my own laundry (can’t transport it to community laundry area); green area or dog park for my service dog. These are preferences and none of them are deal-breakers. The only “non-negotiable” need is a low, 30% of income, rent.

      I hope you can point me to a resource of development companies; a list of companies that operate tax incentive or other very low to low income subsidized properties. That would be greatly appreciated.

      I look forward to hearing from you!
      Barb

    12. Angelina Sigua says:

      im looking for HUD apt.subsidized low income for myself. I’m 76 years old and single.I need help in San Diego ca.

    13. Patricia Hiben says:

      Hello I am 66yrs young and I have a bad heart. I am very homeless I recently had an apartment paying $800 a mth.the manager was stealing my money. She was also yelling at me because I was helping homeless people.she had me evicted. Now I’m in the streets. I have my son who is 36 yes old. He was in an accident so bad he has not been the same since. He is trying his hardest to helping me. Because of the accident he can not work. I am so scared living like this. Were begging for help and don’t know where to turn. My credit is poor. Things on there which aren’t all mine. I’m on widows pay and SSI which I now have lost my debit card , or stolen and so stuck. Please can you help us I beg of you. Sincerely..Patricia H.

    14. Nilsa Benitez says:

      I live with my two older sons, i am 55 and want to live on my own, we live in nycha, but i want to move out on my own, also have social securith income, what can i do, also have a small dog.

    15. Tommie Moore says:

      Mom & I will be moving to South Tx in the next year. I have no clue as to what is available for housing
      New Braunfels, Schertz, Cibolo area is what I’m looking at but I no my retirement income could be a problem. Can you help me?

    16. Beverly Traylor says:

      Looking for a one bedroom apartment with 775 sq. ft. , Gated community /pool. First floor in the Henderson, Nevada area. Lease up in January (17th )of 2018. Relocating from AR. Can you please help ; 7-800 month

    17. Need low-income senior housing in Bay area California, ASAP, help

    18. Suzan Danielle Wright says:

      I am a 70 yr-old woman desperately trying to find an income-restricted senior apt complex in California. You see, I hv family in both No & So CA, none of whom can afford to help me move nor put me up once I do move. I lived in California 80% of my adult life and was asked by my daughter to move to Texas. Now we don’t even speak. I don’t have but perhaps 7 years left to live, and I long to return home before that day comes. In addition to my social security income, I also work as a caregiver which brings in just about as much as my social security check. I would happily consider sharing a space with another woman with impeccable integrity, kindness and compassion. I am totally self-sufficient. I love cats and have one. We keep to ourselves in our bedroom, I read a lot, watch occasional television, attend church, and many other things too numerous to list here. If anyone who is reading this knows of any housing that is somewhere…anywhere…not in a ghetto ot questionable part of any town, PLEASE contact me. I am fun loving, young and heart and happy to get on with the rest of my life… Just not here in Texas. Thank you.

    19. betty j. lipsey says:

      I really need a place to live.

    20. DIANNE W WALSH says:

      LOOKING FOR HUD SR.HOUSING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

    21. Sandra Lampkins says:

      I’m 65 on SSD living in Broward County, FL. The house I’ve lived in for the last 13 years belonged to my aunt and uncle, both deceased, is being sold in a month and I have no money or any place to go. Any suggestions to help me?

    22. Im looking for low income apartment in Orlando , Fl. Im 64 and Im in waiting list for 2 years in different senior apartment included housing, and still waiting, I dont know when they call you maybe when you died, I dont know what to do or where more to go

    23. Debbie Deneau says:

      64 years old and disabled. I am now renting a room but the owner is selling her house. I have to be out by. October 1st. I receive social security and a very small amount of alimony. I’m looking for a senior citizens living. I’m am capable of taking care of myself. Looking for something in the chino area California 92860

    24. Luther Stanton says:

      I’ve been looking for a place for over a year and I am living in a shelter would you please help me I live in Los Angeles my name is Luther Stanton and I need help soon

    25. Faith Dixon says:

      I live in. Greensboro North Carolina and im a 55-year-old woman disabled.on disability I want to know how I can get on the low income senior citizens list in my state.

    26. Jose Rodriguez says:

      I am 73 years retired at 66, strong enough to go back to work, landed a job with the state of Fl. Getting ready to retired in about a yr, after retirement incom per yr will be abt 22G. And bullet proof credit score. My question is, how early Shouold I start looking for an apartment with my incom?? (What shuld be a reasonable time) another concern, I am as co owner on my sister’s house (she take care of everything, mortgage, utilities taxes etc.. I live in my own place. I can proof she is self sufficient with her incomm. The house will go to her children. Would this affect my Eligibility for a low incomm Apt . Looking for a place in Broward County, FL. (Pompano beach, margate,)
      Would appreciate ur opinion or suggestion.
      Respectfully
      JR

    27. diane smith says:

      I would like to get help please..I’m 63 years old and disable receive benefits from railroad retirement of 900.00 month. I have been searching the for a place in Florida close to west palm beach where my son lives. I could not find anything in palm beach . If they have any senior apartment near that area I would greatly appreciate.

    28. Need low income (Hud) in Kc, Mo. N. Of the river, preferably Gladstone area.

    29. Don Altier says:

      57 years old and disabled, use power wheelchair, need low income housing in San Diego county in California

    30. Conchita Gomez Day says:

      I am 66 years old still active working as a caregiver but already having problem on my back etc. My question is how can I apply for senior housing if I only depend on my social security income which is only more than $600 a month. Can I apply now for this low income senior housing? Although I am still working. Thank you for your kind assistance in this matter

      • Hello, Conchita.

        You might want to contact your local housing authority with your questions. Local housing authorities administer programs for low-income senior housing. You also might want to look at this article: https://www.after55.com/blog/how-find-low-income-senior-housing/

        And/or contact a local HUD-approved housing counselor: https://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm

        – Mark, After55.com

      • Hello Conchita. The 55+ community go by your income well some do and some do not. Yes there is a waiting list for some communities and you don’t have to pay to get on the list. While others ask for a deposit to get on the list. I’m 58 and I work a full-time job but I have went to a few 55+ communities here in Houston,Tx and they go by your income. It maybe anywhere from $300- $600 a month. And you don’t have to be on section 8 housing but they do accept 8 housing but also working seniors with low income. Wish you the best.

    31. I’m 68, own my own 1 bdrm house. I can’t take care of things like I used to, though I’m otherwise completely independent. My SS income is low, and what I make on selling my house won’t pay rent for long. I really want to live in the San Antonio area, but not in city. Is it impossible?

    32. Jennie Laughlin says:

      I live in the N. Dallas area cannot find an apartment. I am 57 and low income. Trying to get on any waiting list, nothing is available. I am still active just slowing on income/work.

    33. Not enough reasonably priced senior apts to live in. 60% of US population is in poverty and prices for apts are horribly high. And who decides what the prices for apartments will be…the rich and the criminal who love to steal from us slaves

    34. George Berglund says:

      I am in the Minneapolis metro area and am looking for a one-bedroom apartment in the Burnsville or Bloomington areas for $1500 a month or less.

    35. Ron Willams says:

      Looking for Senior housing in central New Jersey,A Military Veteran Viet Nam era age 63 with a HUD-VASH Sec 8 Voucher through the VA, my credit history and background checks out as me being a Federal employee.Should I have a problem finding housing…just curious

    36. Linda Capistran says:

      Hello, I am living in Nokomis FL for 2 years. My lease is up June 30th.
      I am 59 years old an disabled, self suffient. What are my options? I have no where to go. Any area in Sarasota County. Thank you.

    37. Millie Gillpatrick says:

      I’m 67 years old, newly widowed and only have social security. I’m looking for a 55+ community in a safe neighborhood in the Phoenix area and would like to know how to apply for Section 8 vouchers.

    38. Hi,
      I’m 63 and have been looking into this complicated issue of affordable housing for 2 years. Phone call after phone call to talk with managers that are rude, irritated with the job of dealing with people…
      and some that are co-operative as well. Just depends. Most don’t want to hear your story.
      I have dealt with wait lists that have NO recollection of my name on a list I put myself on a year ago, to section 8 programs closed forever. Like here in Maricopa co Az. There are pages and pages of pages of applications to deal
      with and discouraging apt complex managers that will discriminate if you are OUT OF TOWN.
      Like a lot of people here I want to relocate to live near the only family I have left in Galt Ca. But, it is bleak. There are NO available Apts at all that I have found for me. Maybe there is something in Mississippi that I don’t know of. But that hardly died me any good. The public housing is the same. But I have put my name on another ” LIST” because it was the only thing OPEN close to my son. Which by the way is “DOWNTOWN” Sacramento. Sorry, but it is full of crime, homeless, and drugs. Although the building looks like one of those huge towers surrounded by trees….
      I may just want to stay inside for ever.
      There are web sites that are very comprehensive with lists of senior low income housing, section 8, public housing, etc. Most of them are crap.
      The Housing Authorities that issue these vouchers are up to their eyeballs with this problem. Just saying this cuz ITS TRUE!
      The so called market prices Apts are OUT of my range and one gal told me there has to be 2 people to occupiy. I have 715.00 a month. The lowest of the low end. I will need food stamps and whatever help I can get. I’m healthy and able to work at something but all that has to happen for me to live alone and move near my son. Sadly, I don’t have any family/ friends to live with.
      It’s a difficult situation.
      I would like to know where all these new
      Builds are?

    39. Deborah Deveroux says:

      I am on a fixed pension and also handicapped. I am completely dependent on a power chair. Other than that, l am completely dependent. I am 64 years old and I’m looking for senior low income housing in the Baton Rouge or the Avoylelles parish Louisiana (a little more country/isolated but l love the country life) area. I am looking to relocate in October so as to be closer to family.

    40. Karen Jackson says:

      Hello, my name is Karen, I’m 62 years old, and I’d like to know if there are any low-income based, senior housing in these Florida areas: Winter Haven, Orlando, Lakeland, Tampa, New Port Richey, or Lutz. I still work, and need a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment, that will accept a cat (in the future), and the area is clean and safe as one can be now a days. No “In the hood” neighborhoods.

    41. Linda Lavalais says:

      Hello I’m a 61 year old widow and looking for hud apt subsidized low-income with disabilities, I need help in Tulsa Oklahoma

    42. Hello my name is Sally I am 68 yrs old looking to relocate in florida to be by my daughter. I am looking for apt that goes by your income. I am on social security which is low. Please can I get the help I need to find one.looking for two bedroom that excepts very small dog. thankyou for your help

    43. Margaret harrison says:

      hello
      I am looking for a section 8 Senior living apt. I am now living in one in Sonoma county, Ca. and my son has just moved to Montana near Whitefish. Is there any senior living apt in the area? I only need a one bedroom . I am on SS

    44. Antoinette Gaskin says:

      I am 56 and I live in and senior living apt building put I am about to get sec8 and I need to move so how can I get your help also I am on ssi.

    45. Rosalind Edwards says:

      I’m looking for HUD apt subsidized low-income for 55 and with disabilities I need help in Tacoma Washington or in Federal Way or Lakewood

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