About the Program
Program Waiting Lists
Special Programs
Applying for a Section 8 Voucher
Waiting List Information
Waiting List Preferences
Waiting List Status: Placement Date Being Reviewed
Waiting List Pre-Application Form
Reaching the Top of the Waiting List
Initial Application Process
Receiving The Voucher
Voucher Briefing
Briefing Packet
Using the Voucher
Special Needs
Program Fraud

About the Program

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, also known as “Section 8”, provides rental assistance to low income individuals or families.

There are two main Section 8 Voucher programs: one for Santa Cruz County and one for City of Hollister (which also includes the City of San Juan Bautista).

Once a family receives a voucher, the family finds its own rentals from homes and apartments on the private market. The family pays about a third of its income in rent to the landlord, and the Housing Authority pays the rest, up to a certain limit, directly to the landlord.

The family and landlord sign a rental agreement or lease provided by the landlord. The family pays the security deposit required by the landlord.

Housing Authority Program Waiting Lists
The following Waiting Lists are currently open:

USDA Farmworker Housing

This program is designed to provide affordable housing to households who earn a substantial portion of their income as farm laborers and who either are citizens of the United States or reside in the United States after being legally admitted for permanent residence.

Resetar Project Based Voucher Waiting List

The Resetar Residential Hotel is an 89 unit supportive and affordable housing project in the heart of downtown Watsonville. There are a total of 52 Project Based units at Resetar, of which 5 units are set aside for formerly homeless veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program. There are 3 one-bedroom units and 49 studio apartment in the Project Based Voucher Program. Residents of Resetar Residential Hotel establish a service plan and receive case-management provided by Abode Services or other service providers.

In the Project Based Voucher program, assistance is associated with a unit, not the tenant. Therefore, applicants reaching the top of the Resetar waiting list will only be eligible to reside at Resetar Residential Hotel at 15 West Lake Avenue in downtown Watsonville.

El Centro Project Based Voucher Waiting List

In the Project Based Voucher program, assistance is associated with a unit, not the tenant. Therefore, applicants reaching the top of the El Centro waiting list will only be eligible to reside at El Centro Residential Apartments (1110 Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz). Only single person households age 60 or above are eligible for these units. El Centro has 45 single room occupancy (SRO) units with a bathroom, small refrigerator, microwave and sink. Each unit has access to a shared kitchen, separate men and women’s showers, and other amenities.

Click here for a flyer with more information about El Centro Residential Apartments.

The following Waiting Lists are currently closed:

Merrill Road Apartments

Merrill Road is an affordable housing development consisting of 15 units for very-low income households.

St. Stephens Project Based Voucher (PBV) Waiting List

The complex is developed and operated by MidPen Housing. Occupancy is designated for low income seniors at least 62 years of age. The complex has studio, one and two bedroom apartments. There are a total of 39 project based units at St. Stephens. Five units are designated for formerly homeless veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program, as referred by the Veterans Administration. Five units are designated for Multipurpose Senior Services Program (MSSP) eligible persons referred by Health Projects Center. This new site based waiting list is for the remaining 29 units.

Low Income Public Housing

In the Low Income Public Housing (LIPH) program, participants rent a townhouse style apartment owned and managed by the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz. Tenants pay rent directly to the Housing Authority equal to 30% of the household’s adjusted income. In this program, the housing assistance is associated with the unit, not the tenant. Therefore, to continue participation in LIPH Program, families must remain in an LIPH unit.

Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Program

In the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program, participants are issued a voucher and rent with a landlord who agrees to participate in the Section 8 program. The Housing Authority pays a portion of the rent directly to the landlord. The participant pays the difference between the negotiated rent and the amount paid by the Housing Authority to the landlord. This amount can (and in many cases does) exceed 30% of the household’s adjusted income

Special Voucher Programs

Over time, HUD has awarded the Housing Authority with funding for specific voucher types to serve specific populations. In some instances, these special programs offer vouchers to eligible persons from the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) waiting list. In other instances, vouchers are issued based on referrals from services providers. All special voucher programs that are based on referrals from other agencies are listed and described below, along with information regarding how you can find out more information about accessing these programs.

Shelter Plus Care

35 Vouchers

The Housing Authority administers a shelter Plus Care program which combines rental assistance and supportive services for chronically homeless persons.

Referrals for Shelter Plus Care come from the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency/ Homeless Persons’ Health Project (HPHP).

For more information, contact HPHP at 454-2080

Nuevo Sol SROs

11 Units

The Housing Authority administers a Moderate Rehabilitation single room occupancy project for homeless individuals.

Referrals for Nuevo Sol come from the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency/ Homeless Persons’ Health Project (HPHP).

For more information, contact HPHP at 454-2080

Welfare to Work vouchers

24 Vouchers

The Welfare to Work vouchers are for persons participating in the CalWorks Welfare to Work Program. The vouchers are reserved for CalWorks participants. They are intended to be a key part of the strategy to support the efforts of Santa Cruz County families who are working towards self-sufficiency.

Referrals for Welfare to Work vouchers come from the Human Services Department.

For more information, contact Jim Narragon at (831) 454-4659

Medicaid Waiver Vouchers

27 Vouchers

The Medicaid Waiver vouchers are for persons participating in the Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Program. The Medicaid waiver vouchers are reserved for individuals with intellectual disabilities, also covered under a waiver of Section 1915(c) of the Social Security Act, who are Medicaid-eligible and at risk of being placed in intermediate care facilities. Agencies that serve people with Developmental Disabilities make referrals for Medicaid Waiver vouchers. At this time these include the Housing Choice Coalition (HCC) and the Multipurpose Senior Services Program in Santa Cruz (MSSP).

This waiting List is currently CLOSED

Family Unification Program – Youth (FUP-Y)

8 Vouchers

The Family Unification Youth vouchers are reserved for persons at least 18 years old and not more than 24 years old who left foster care at age 16 or older and who lack adequate housing.
FUP Youth vouchers used are limited to 36 months of housing assistance.

Referrals for FUP-Y vouchers come from Encompass Community Services.

For more information, contact Susan Paradise at (831) 459-0444 x 202

Family Unification Program (FUP)

115 Vouchers

The Family Unification Program vouchers are reserved for families for which lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in the imminent placement of their child or children in out-of-home care or in the delaying of discharge of a child or children to the
family from out-of-home care.
Referrals for FUP vouchers come from the Human Services Department.

For more information, contact Jim Narragon at (831) 454-4659

Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH)

209 Vouchers

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have partnered to create a program for homeless veterans that combines HUD Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs at its medical centers and in the community.

Referrals for vouchers VASH come from the VA.

For more Information, contact Shannon Healer, LCSW at (650) 269-5945

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The Section 8 program serves families with total household incomes up to 80% Area Medium Income (current Income Limits). For eligibility purposes, all persons in the household are considered part of the family regardless of relationship.

Specific eligibility requirements are established by the U.S. Congress and implemented by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Eligibility rules can change at any time, therefore a family’s eligibility is not established until close to the time a Section 8 voucher will be issued.

Once on the Section 8 program, program participants can have income above the income limits until a level of income is reached at which the Housing Authority is no longer paying subsidy on behalf of the family.

Who cannot receive rental assistance?

Federal housing programs do not assist undocumented aliens. Families with both undocumented members and members who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants can receive pro-rated rental assistance which is reduced proportionately by the number of undocumented members.

Registered sex offenders are also barred from receiving rental assistance. Other criminal background can also limit assistance.

Applying for a Section 8 Voucher

Families may put their names on the Waiting List by completing a pre-application (see below). As vouchers are given up by families leaving the program, the families on the waiting list are contacted to submit a full application. The Housing Authority will process applications in the order received.

Even if a family has a landlord who wants to participate in the voucher program, the family must wait its turn for a voucher by going on the waiting list like all other pre-applicants.

Waiting List Information

The Waiting List is a list of families that have completed a “pre-application” indicating that they are interested in participating in the program.

The Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz determines applicant eligibility and issues vouchers on a first come, first served basis, based on the date that an applicant added their name to the waiting list. Because there is more demand for assistance than there are vouchers available, there is usually a long wait for assistance, typically several years.

If a family is already on the waiting list, please understand that the wait for assistance may be very long. The Housing Authority cannot predict when names will reach the top of the Waiting List.

The speed at which the Waiting List moves depends on how many families leave the program, and therefore free up a voucher which can then be given to the next family on the Waiting List. It is impossible to predict when a voucher will be available; the Housing Authority provides information on the month and year of the waiting list placement for applications currently being processed. Therefore, if an applicant knows when they were placed on the waiting list, they may be able to use this information to see if they are getting close to the top of the list.

If the family breaks up, the person designated as Head of Household on the pre-application will keep the place on the Waiting List. Anyone not living with the Head of Household would need to apply on his or her own by submitting a new pre-application.

Waiting List Preferences

The Housing Authority has a limited waiting list preference for disabled and medically vulnerable homeless persons. Currently, a maximum of 120 households may receive the preference at any given time. Referrals for this preference are provided by the Homeless Services Center, in conjunction with the 180/2020 campaign. If you think you might qualify as a disabled and medically homeless person, please contact the Homeless Services Center.

Additionally, the Housing Authority also has a limited waiting list preference for disabled persons transitioning from institutions back into the community. Currently, a maximum of 12 households may receive the preference at any given time. Referrals for this preference are provided by the following agencies: Central Coast Center of Independent Living (CCCIL), Coastline Supportive Living, County Mental Health, Housing Choices Coalition, and San Andreas Regional Center (SARC). If you think you might qualify for this preference please contact one of the above listed referral agencies.

Waiting List Status: Placement Date Being Reviewed

Note to developers: this section may be printed for use in funding applications requiring a statement from the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz regarding the number of families on the Waiting Lists.

Below is the status of the Section 8 Waiting Lists.

Santa Cruz County Waiting List
The Waiting list is: Closed
The Housing Authority is currently in the process of updating our waiting list data. Once the update is complete, we will resume providing the number of families on the waiting list.
Full applications are being taken for families who went on the list before: October 2009
(Updated on: January 23, 2017)

Hollister Waiting List
The Waiting List is: Closed
The Housing Authority is currently in the process of updating our waiting list data. Once the update is complete, we will resume providing the number of families on the waiting list.
Full applications are being taken for families who went on the list before: February 2010
(Updated on: January 23, 2017)

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Waiting List Status Form

All Waiting List applicants must notify the Housing Authority within 30 days of any change of address (see below); however, there is no need to inform the Housing Authority about changes in family composition while on the Waiting List. Please use the Waiting List Status form to notify the Housing Authority of any changes to your address while you are on the Waiting List.

IMPORTANT: If a family does not respond when the Housing Authority attempts to make contact at the last known address, the family’s name will be removed from the Waiting List. If the family moves while on the Waiting List, a Waiting List Status form must be submitted within 30 days of the move.

Waiting List Placement Date and Confirmation

Once a Pre-application is received and entered in the Waiting List, the family will receive a Waiting List Placement Date letter notifying the family of its placement date and confirming that the family has been successfully added to the waiting list. Depending on the volume of applications, it can take up to two months for this confirmation to be sent. Your placement date is the date the date the Pre-application was received by the Housing Authority and does not change.

Note: If you are not sure if you are on the list or have forgotten your date
of placement, please complete a

 Waiting List Status. You will be sent a computer-generated copy of the original letter providing the date your Pre-Application was received and your name put on the waiting list. The placement date is always the same and does not change. The confirmation letter will not tell you how long you have to wait.

Reaching the Top of the Waiting List

When the family’s name reaches the top of the Waiting List, a letter is sent asking if the family wants an Initial Application packet. The family must respond to this letter by the due date or its name will be removed from the Waiting List.

Initial Applications are processed when the family submits all requested information and documents. The family can ensure its application is processed sooner by keeping all documents updated and in a safe place ready to be submitted when notified.

Initial Application process

The Initial Application is lengthy and asks for a lot of information. Applicants are encouraged to be as specific and detailed as possible. Program eligibility will be based on the information given by the applicant who will be asked to certify to its truthfulness (see Program Violations and Fraud). The sooner the family provides the Housing Authority with all requested information the sooner the application will be processed.

The Housing Authority will independently verify all information submitted and may be informed of information an applicant has not submitted. If later it is found that the family did not fully inform or comply with the application, the voucher could be terminated and the family could be required to pay the Housing Authority back for any assistance received that it was not entitled to. It is better to over-declare than under-declare information. Housing Authority staff will advise if information does not apply.

The initial application is used to:

  1. Gather information about the family and its income
  2. Determine whether or not the family is eligible for assistance
  3. Calculate approximately how much rent the family will pay
  4. Determine how many bedrooms the family is eligible for

Even after the Initial Application is processed, there can still be long wait before a voucher is available. In most cases, it takes an average of six months from the time you submit an Initial Application to the time you are issued a voucher. However, wait times may vary greatly depending on the rate at which current voucher holders leave the program. Please see the Initial Application Flowchart for a visual overview of the steps in the Initial Application Process with information about average length of time for each step in the process. Please note: federal regulations require that eligibility verifications be no older than 60 days at the time the Voucher is issued. If there are delays in obtaining verifications or in issuing the voucher, information may have to be resubmitted.

Important Reminder about the Initial Application

Note: Make sure the Housing Authority always has a current address for you. If you move, please submit a Waiting List Status form to the Housing Authority immediately. If we you cannot be reached you by mail, your application will be cancelled.

Respond to all Housing Authority deadlines promptly.

The Housing Authority will ask to see original Social Security cards, birth certificates, and photo IDs. Be sure to have these on hand to speed the Initial Application process

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Receiving the Voucher

Once reaching the top of the Waiting List and being declared eligible, there may still be a long wait. The family is responsible keeping the Housing Authority informed of any changes to its income or household composition even after income eligibility has already been established. Additionally, the family is responsible for any security deposit required by a future landlord and should be setting aside funds to pay the security deposit which usually is equal to at least one month’s total rent.

The family should not take steps to rent a unit anticipating receipt of the voucher; this could result in the family being responsible for the entire rent.

When a voucher becomes available, the family will be invited to a “briefing,” where the program rules are explained, and the voucher is issued. The family must agree to the rules and regulations regarding the voucher and receive more information about how the program works including specifics regarding the family’s subsidy amount and the maximum rent that can be paid. There are certain limitations regarding rentals that are covered at the briefing.

Voucher Briefing

A “Voucher Briefing” is required by the federal government before a family can receive its voucher. A briefing lasts about one and a half hours and children are not permitted. Briefings are held in groups of 20 to 40 people.

Families arriving late to the briefing will not be allowed to attend the briefing. The briefing is a pre-set presentation including information the Housing Authority is required by federal regulations to cover or a voucher cannot be issued. If the family is late through no fault of its own, the family will be notified of a future briefing date. If the family misses two briefings, the voucher will be canceled and the family’s name removed from the list.

After Housing Authority staff explains the program requirements and how the program works, time will be spent with families individually to discuss their particular Voucher size and rent subsidy.

Briefing Packet

At the briefing, a briefing packet containing required information and forms will be given to each family.

Using the Voucher

There is a limited amount of time to use a Voucher before it expires, commonly 60 days.

The federal government requires the Housing Authority to ensure that all vouchers are used quickly to assist the maximum number of families. If a family does not move expeditiously to use its voucher, there are thousands of other families on the Waiting List who will. The Housing Authority cannot allow vouchers to go unused; it is important that the family give full attention and effort to looking for a rental that will accept the voucher so that it does not expire.

Leasing in Place

The quickest way to ensure that a voucher is not lost is to “lease in place,” that is, renting from the current landlord if that landlord will accept the Section 8 voucher. Once on the program by using the voucher at its current rental, the family can then take its time to look for another rental without having the voucher expire.’

Finding a Rental

If the family cannot rent its current unit or must find somewhere to live, there are many ways to find a rental unit. These are covered in the voucher briefing.

Once a suitable rental and a willing landlord is found, the family gives the landlord a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) to complete. The RTA is given to the voucher holder at the briefing. Only one RTA is issued at a time. If the rental submitted on the current RTA is not approved, another RTA will be issued. The RTA asks the landlord for information the Housing Authority will need in order to review the rental to see if it meets the program requirements.

The Housing Authority staff will talk with the landlord and, once all is agreed to, an inspection will be scheduled. The rental must meet federal Housing Quality Standards (HQS). For more information, please see HQS Checklist.

The family cannot have a personal financial interest in the property or be a beneficiary; neither can the landlord cannot be a relative of the family except under certain limited conditions for persons with disabilities. The landlord cannot live in the rental unit with the family.

If a rental is not found within the time stated on the voucher, the family must request an extension in writing. It should not be assumed that an extension will be granted.

Special Needs

If you are a person with disabilities and you have special needs related to a Housing Authority program, please see the Special Needs Q&A and the Special Needs section of the Forms page.

Program Fraud

The federal government and the Housing Authority take action against those committing program frauds, whether they are Section 8 participants or landlords. The Housing Authority has established a Program Integrity unit specifically to investigate and take action against those who commit program violations. Please go to this web site’s section on Program Fraud for more information or report fraud.


For answers to more of your questions about searching for a place to rent, please see our Questions & Answers page.

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