Public Housing FAQ

Who is eligible for Public Housing?

Public Housing is limited to low-income families and individuals.  The Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority (WBHA) 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 WBHA will check your rental history, references, and other factors to make sure you and your family will be good tenants.  The WBHA 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, please see the Waiting Lists page.

Do you have emergency housing assistance?

No.  The WBHA does not have any type of emergency housing in either its Public Housing or HCV programs.  If you are in need of emergency housing, you may wish to contact the following:

  • Women’s Shelter:   Ruth’s Place (570) 822-6817
  • Men’s Shelter:         Mother Theresa Haven (570) 825-9948
  • Family Shelter:        Kirby Family House (570) 824-8380

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, social security number, sex, date of birth, and relation to the head;
  • Current address and telephone number;
  • Family characteristics including but not limited to (e.g., veterans), or circumstances (e.g., living in our jurisdiction) that might qualify the family for tenant selection preferences;
  • Names and addresses of your current and previous landlords for information about your family’s suitability as a tenant;
  • Personal references; and 
  • Sources and amounts of all your family’s income, assets, etc. 

Will I need to produce any documentation?

Yes.  The WBHA will request whatever documentation is needed (e.g., birth certificates, social security cards, etc.) to verify the information given on your application.  The WBHA will also rely on direct verification from outside sources.  You will be asked to sign a form to authorize release of pertinent information to the WBHA. 

What is the maximum amount of income that I can earn in order to qualify for assistance? 

The income limits are determined by HUD and change every year.  Please see the Publications page for current income limits.

How is the unit size (number of bedrooms) determined?

The WBHA assigns bedrooms based on the criteria outlined in our WBHA Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy (ACOP).

What happens once my application is submitted? 

Applications are placed on the waiting list based on the bedroom size you qualify for.  Your placement on the list will be ordered by preference category and, within each preference category, by the date and time the application was received by our office.

If I have moved since the time I submitted my application, do I need to notify the WBHA?

Yes.  You must report any changes of address to the WBHA within 10 business days, in person.  Please note:  changing your address with the post office will NOT change your address with the WBHA.  You must update us separately. 

Almost all of our communication with you will be conducted via mail.  This is why it is extremely important to keep us updated with your current address.  If a letter is returned by the post office, your name will be removed from the waiting list. 

Do I have to be a citizen to be eligible for housing assistance?

No.  You do not have to be a citizen; however, you must have eligible immigration status.  Everyone in the household will be required to declare their citizenship status and provide proof of identity.  Non-citizens with eligible immigration status will be required to provide proof of eligible immigration status as well.

How long is the waiting list?

The length of time you will spend on the waiting list will be different for every bedroom size.  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.

What happens when it is my turn to receive housing?

Once your name reaches the top of the waiting list, you will be contacted by mail and/or phone.  The WBHA will begin the process to verify your income, assets, and family composition. We will also check landlord references, personal references, conduct criminal background checks of everyone in the household 18 years of age and other factors that help the WBHA determine your suitability for living in our housing properties. 

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

What are some of the reasons that could prevent me from getting housing assistance?

There are many reasons why an application may be denied including, but not limited to:

  • Failed criminal background check
  • Previous evictions
  • Whether you or your household members owe any debts to us or to anothersubsidized housing property
  • Income over the federally-mandated income limits
  • Failure to appear for scheduled appointments
  • Failure to provide necessary documents or information for us to determine eligibility

All denials are based on the policies and regulations found in the WBHA’s ACOP.  The WBHA is prohibited by federal law from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, familial status, and disability. 

When will I know if I am eligible?

We will verify all your information and the circumstances and facts of your case. The length of time it takes to verify your information is dependent on the accuracy of the information that you provide on the application and the response time of your landlord and personal references.  This is not something that we can control.  Once this is finished, we will determine whether you are eligible or not.  We will contact you either by phone or 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 be offered an available unit that meets your needs.  We will discuss your rent and security deposit.  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 WBHA representative. This will give you a better understanding of your responsibilities as a tenant and the WBHA’s responsibilities as a landlord.

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

If you reject a unit offer without good cause, you will forfeit the application’s date and time.  You will keep your preferences, but the date and time of application will be changed to the date and time the unit was rejected. 

Can I choose the Public Housing development where I would like to live?

Yes, you will be able to choose the development or developments where you would like to live. 

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 WBHA, long waiting periods are common.  Giving preference to specific groups of families enables the WBHA to direct our limited housing resources to the families with the greatest housing needs.

The WBHA has three preferences: a residency preference for adult applicants who live and/or work in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; a working/elderly/disabled preference for those households whose head, spouse, or sole member is employed, is age 62 or older and/or is a person with disabilities; and a veteran’s preference for veterans and their spouses.  Applicants who do not qualify for any 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 WBHA 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 WBHA will determine if any of the allowable deductions should be subtracted from your annual gross income. Annual gross income is the anticipated total income from all sources received by the family.

The formula used in determining the TTP is the highest of the following, rounded to the nearest dollar: 30 percent of your monthly adjusted income (income minus deductions allowed by regulations); or 10 percent of monthly income without these deductions; or a minimum rent.

As you can see, there are many factors that go into our calculations.

What is the role of the WBHA?

The WBHA 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.  The Lease must be signed by both parties;
  • 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.

What is a reasonable accommodation?  Can I get one?

Sometimes people with disabilities may need a reasonable accommodation in order to take full advantage of the WBHA’s housing programs and related services. 

A reasonable accommodation is a change, adaptation, or modification to the WBHA’s rules, policies, practices, or services which is necessary to provide a qualified individual with a handicap or disability an equal opportunity to participate fully in the services, programs, or activities provided by the WBHA.

You may request a reasonable accommodation.  A request may be made on behalf of the individual by a family member or other agent. 

How long can I stay in Public Housing?

In general, you may stay in Public Housing as long as you comply with the lease.  If, at reexamination, your family’s income is sufficient to obtain housing on the private market, the WBHA may determine whether your family should stay in Public Housing. 

 I have a specific question that isn’t answered here.  Where can I ask?

If your question isn’t answered in this section, please contact the WBHA Tenant Selection Department at (570) 825-6657.  We will respond to all calls as soon as possible. 

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