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Who is eligible for public housing?

Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals. The BCHA determines your eligibility based on: 1) annual gross income; 2) whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family under general occupancy; and 3) U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status. If you are eligible, the BCHA will check your references to make sure you and your family will be good tenants. The BCHA will deny admission to any applicant whose habits and practices may be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project’s environment.

How do I apply?

For information on the status of our waiting lists, visit our Waiting List/Application Process page. If waiting lists are open, you will be able to apply online through this website.

How does the application process work?

We will collect the following information on the application:

  • Names of all persons who will be living in the public housing unit, sex, date of birth, and relation to the head;
  • Your current address and telephone number;
  • Family characteristics (e.g., veterans), or circumstances (e.g., living in our jurisdiction) that might qualify the family for tenant selection preferences;
  • Sources and amounts of all your family’s income;

You will be able to select the developments you are interested in living at.

The BCHA will use one of two systems to place applicants on the waiting list. The BCHA may use a “lottery” system, in which each application is randomly given a number. Under this system, it makes no difference when your application is submitted; each application has the same chance of being chosen. The BCHA will select a certain number of applications, ordered by preference category and then by assigned number, to be placed on the waiting list; the rest will not be selected and will have to reapply when the waiting list reopens.

Alternatively, the BCHA may accept all applications. In this case, applications will be ordered by preference category and, within each preference category, by the date and time the application was received by our office.

Once your name reaches the top of the waiting list, you will be contacted by mail and sent a full application for housing assistance, called a Personal Declaration. You will also be given a date and time to attend an intake interview. At this interview, you will submit your full application, and the BCHA will verify your income, assets, and family composition. We will also determine your suitability for living in our housing by checking landlord references and conducting a criminal background check of everyone in the household over the age of 18.

After this process is completed, we will notify you by mail of your eligibility.

How long is the waiting list?

The length of time you will spend on the waiting list will be different for every bedroom size and every development you select. It is impossible to give an estimate of how long you will have to wait, because we have a fixed number of public housing units. These units become available at unpredictable intervals, so there is no way to predict how long anyone will have to wait for one of our units to become available.

When will I know if I am eligible?

We will verify all your information and the circumstances and facts of your case. This usually takes between 4 to 8 weeks from the date of your intake appointment. Once this is finished, we will determine whether you are eligible or not. You will receive a letter in the mail with our decision.

If we determine that you are ineligible, we will state the reason(s) why. If you believe our decision was made in error, you have the right to request an informal hearing.

After I am eligible, what happens?

Once you are eligible, you will begin to receive notices of vacancy in the mail, as units become available that meet your needs in the developments that you have selected. They will have information about the unit and an estimate of your rent and security deposit. You are required to respond to each notice indicating whether you are interested; if you do not respond to a notice, you will be removed from our waiting list.

We will offer each unit to the highest-ranking person on the waiting list who responds that they are interested. A date and time will be scheduled for you to see the unit or a similar unit, at which time you will give us your final acceptance of the offer. We will then schedule a leasing appointment, where you will pay the first month’s rent and security deposit, sign the lease, and receive the keys to your new unit. You should take this opportunity to go over the lease carefully with the BCHA representative. This will give you a better understanding of your responsibilities as a tenant and the BCHA’s responsibilities as a landlord.

What if I’m not interested in a unit that you offer me?

You will only be offered units at developments that you have previously applied for or stated that you will accept a unit at. In addition, you will only receive one offer per development without good cause.

If you reject any unit offer without good cause, you will no longer receive offers at that development and will be removed from the waiting list for that development.

Thus, the number of offers you can reject is limited to the number of developments that you initially selected. If you reject units at every development that you had previously selected, your name will be removed from our waiting lists and you will need to reapply when the lists are open.

Can I choose the public housing development where I would like to live?

You will be able to choose the development or developments where you would like to live at the time that you first apply.

Do you give a preference to any groups of people?

Yes. Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to the BCHA, long waiting periods are common. Our waiting lists frequently close when there are more applicants than we can serve in a reasonable amount of time. Giving preference to specific groups of families enables the BCHA to direct our limited housing resources to the families with the greatest housing needs.

The BCHA has three preferences: a veteran’s preference for veterans and their spouses,  a residency preference for applicants who live, work or have been hired to work in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and a preference if someone is subsidized versus unsubsidized. Applicants who do not qualify for either of these preferences will still be placed on the waiting list.

How much will I pay in rent? How is my rent determined?

Your rent, which is referred to as the Total Tenant Payment (TTP) in this program, is based on your family’s anticipated gross annual income, less any deductions, if applicable.

HUD regulations allow the BCHA to exclude from annual income the following allowances: $480 for each dependent; $400 for any elderly family or person with a disability; certain childcare expenses; and certain medical expenses for families headed by an elderly person or a person with disabilities.

Based on your application, the BCHA will determine if any of the allowable deductions should be subtracted from your annual income. Annual income is the anticipated total income from all sources received from the family head and spouse, and each additional member of the family 18 years of age or older.

The formula used in determining the TTP is the highest of the following, rounded to the nearest dollar:

  1.  30 percent of your monthly adjusted income (income minus deductions allowed by regulations); or
  2.  10 percent of monthly income without these deductions; or
  3.  A $50 minimum rent.

As you can see, there are many factors that go into our calculations. For more information, please refer to the HUD fact sheet on how your rent is determined, as well as a worksheet showing how we calculate your rent amount.

What is the role of the BCHA?

The BCHA is responsible for the management and operation of our local public housing program, as well as our other housing programs such as the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program.

Our ongoing functions in the Public Housing Program include:

  •  assuring compliance with leases;
  •  setting other charges like security deposits, excess utility consumption, and damages to units;
  •  performing periodic reexaminations of a family’s income at least once every 12 months;
  •  transferring families from one unit to another in order to correct over or undercrowding, repairing or renovating a dwelling, or due to resident’s requests to be transferred;
  •  terminating leases when necessary; and
  •  maintaining our developments in a decent, safe, and sanitary condition.

These frequently asked questions (FAQs) have been adapted from those found on the website of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development at:

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