CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The waiting list for housing vouchers will open up in two areas in Virginia this month. Housing vouchers are often sought after and can make a big difference for struggling families, but what exactly are they, and what do they do?

Here is your guide to housing vouchers in Virginia, and how to apply for one this month if you live in Chesterfield, Page, Shenandoah and Warren Counties or the City of Colonial Heights.

What is a housing voucher?

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal program meant to assist low-income families, the elderly and disabled people afford safe housing in the private market. Through the program, assistance is provided on behalf of an individual or family, who can then find housing that fits their needs.

The program covers many types of housing, including single-family homes, townhouses, mobile homes and apartments, according to Virginia Housing. The program is not limited to units in subsidized housing projects.

Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs).

How do you qualify?

Eligibility for a housing voucher rests on two main factors — citizenship and income.

Vouchers are limited to U.S. citizens and non-citizens who have eligible immigration status.

Eligibility for a housing voucher is also determined by set income limits based on annual gross income and family size. These income limits are determined by HUD and PHAs. Eligibility can vary, but generally the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or city in which the family lives.

During the application process for a voucher, the PHA will collect information on family income, assets and who makes up the family. The PHA will verify this information and then use the information to determine if an applicant qualifies for the program and how much assistance they can receive.

If the PHA determines that a family is eligible, their names will likely be placed on a waitlist, unless immediate attention is possible. Once a family’s name is reached on the wait list, they will be contacted by their local PHA and will be issued a housing voucher.

How do you use it?

Once an individual or family is issued a housing voucher, they are responsible for finding a place to live. This can be a new place or where the applicant is already living. The local PHA must inspect a chosen unit first for affordability and basic standards of cleanliness and safety.

After an applicant has chosen a unit and it has been approved, Virginia Housing will make a monthly payment to the landlord based on a percentage of the applicant’s income. The program participant is responsible for paying the remaining amount that is not subsidized by the voucher.

How to apply

Generally, you can apply for a voucher program when there is an open waitlist in your area. Currently, there are two areas in Virginia that will open their waiting list applications this month.

Shenandoah County Department of Social Service and Virginia Housing will open Housing Choice Voucher Waiting List applications on Wednesday, March 22 at 8:30 a.m. The applications will close at 4:30 p.m. the same day.

Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Department of Social Services (DSS) and Virginia Housing will open Housing Choice Voucher Waiting List applications on Thursday, March 23 at 9 a.m. The applications will close at 1 p.m. the same day.

The program will only take applications online at Applications will not be taken by phone, mail or in person. After filling out the form, applicants will receive a confirmation number that shows their application was received.

Not all applicants will be accepted. In total, 100 applicants will be chosen randomly to be added to the waiting list.

You can check to see if your application was chosen for the random lottery starting at noon on Monday, March 27 by going to

If an applicant requires disability accommodation in order to apply, contact the DSS for assistance during the application time period.

For more information about the application process, contact DSS staff at 804-717-6832 or visit Virginia Housing online