Tips for applying for subsidized housing
Check out this checklist if you are thinking about applying to BC Housing
Before You Apply
- Get help from a support worker. Some social service organizations have a staff person to help with housing or can refer you to a housing worker elsewhere. Support workers can assist with housing searches and applications and may even be able to go with you to appointments.
- Make subsidized housing part of a future plan. Due to high demand, there are waitlists for subsidized housing, which means it will likely not be immediately available. Some housing providers follow the order in which people apply. Others prioritize applicants according to need.
- Search online for information and applications. Information and applications can often be found online, and it is a more efficient way of applying to multiple organizations at once. If you have difficulties accessing or using the internet, you can still submit a paper application.
- Review BC Housing’s list of subsidized buildings to see what you want to apply for. You can search by area and particular needs or look at PDF listings organized by region.
- Subsidized housing units can vary greatly—for example, some have private kitchens and bathrooms, while others have shared spaces.
- Check that you qualify for the places you want to apply for. Some buildings have specific requirements, and you don’t want to go through a long application process only to find out you are not eligible.
- Gather the information you need. Review the application and take note of the information required. For BC Housing, you will need the addresses of places you’ve lived, the names and contact information of past landlords, and income and asset information for members of your household. You will also have to provide copies of a variety of documents (e.g., birth certificates, current lease, cheque stubs).
Doing the Application
- Apply through BC Housing. By filling out just one application through BC Housing, you can be considered for multiple units, so it makes sense to start here first. Afterward, you can work on applying with organizations that manage buildings that are not included in BC Housing’s database. Be warned that BC Housing can take a long time.
- Only apply for units you are willing to move into. BC Housing will offer you housing only two times. If you refuse these offers, your file will be cancelled. There may be similar consequences with housing providers who maintain their own waitlists. See the self-assessment in Module 3 to help you decide what kind of housing, location, and price suits you best.
- Take care with the application. Read and follow the instructions carefully, fill out the application form as neatly and thoroughly as possible, and send it to the correct email or address.
- If you can’t remember a piece of information required on an application, explain why you don’t have it. Maybe you were in the hospital for a time or going through a break-up —some life events can cause stress and affect memory. It’s better to write down why you don’t know something instead of leaving a section on the application blank.
- Provide up-to-date contact information. A housing provider will need to be in touch with you quickly by phone or email if your housing application is accepted. If you provide a phone number or email address, make sure that you check them regularly. You also have the option of providing a “message number”—the phone number of a trusted contact person who can take a message for you. You may also be able to provide an authorized contact, which is someone (usually a housing support worker) who is allowed to give and receive information about you in order to keep your housing application updated.
After You Apply
- Track your applications. Keep a list of all the places you’ve applied for and copies of your applications, including the tracking number if there is one. Knowing where you’ve applied can save you time and energy in the long run. You won’t apply to the same place twice and you’ll know where you need to check in (to say you’re still interested) and update your information.
- Update your applications. If your contact information, address, rent, income, health status, relationship status, or household size changes, you have to let BC Housing know. Other housing providers may have similar requirements.
- Keep yourself on the waitlist by checking in. By updating your application with BC Housing at least once every six months, you can keep yourself on the waitlist. BC Housing will close your application if they don’t hear from you for more than six months. Other housing providers may have similar requirements, so ask and keep track.
- Be realistic. Waitlists are long, and the need for housing is huge. It’s not possible to know how long it will take for housing to open up, and unfortunately some who apply will not receive an offer of subsidized housing. It’s a good idea to get in touch with a support worker and start working on your housing applications now if you are interested or think you might be interested in the future.