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Public Housing in Texas

Public Housing

This article provides general information about public housing in Texas.

Learn about public housing. This article covers eligibility criteria, how to apply, how rent is determined, and other general information.  

The information in this article was written by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It has been edited for style. 

Revised by on November 28, 2022. 

What is public housing?

Public housing is affordable, decent, and safe rental housing for low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.  

Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family houses to high-rise apartments for elderly families.  

Who funds and manages public housing?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gives federal aid to local housing agencies (PHAs) that manage public housing. 

PHAs across Texas provide public housing. Each PHA covers a specific service area. 

Is public housing the same as Section 8?

No, public housing and the housing choice voucher program (Section 8) are different programs.

Both programs provide housing assistance to low-income individuals and families.  

With a housing choice voucher, renters find their own housing in the private market and the program pays a rent subsidy directly to the landlord.  

Public housing provides housing units for rent at below the market rate, based on your income level.

Am I eligible for public housing?

Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals.  

A PHA determines your eligibility based on:  

1) annual gross income;  

2) whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family; and  

3) U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status.  

If you are eligible, the PHA will check your references. PHAs deny admission to applicants whose habits and practices may be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project's environment. 

What are the income limits for public housing?

PHAs use income limits developed by HUD.  

HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% and very low-income limits at 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live. 

Income limits vary from area to area, so you may be eligible at one PHA but not at another.  

The PHA serving your community can provide you with the income levels for your area and family size. 

You can also use HUD's income lookup tool to find income limits in  your area.

How do I apply for public housing?

Contact your local PHA to apply for public housing. 

To find PHAs in specific areas in Texas, visit HUD's list of Texas Public Housing Agencies or the Texas Housing Association's directory.  

You may also call 211 for information on your local PHA.

If you have trouble contacting the PHA, contact your local HUD Field Office.

What information will I need to complete the application?

A PHA usually needs to collect the following information to determine eligibility: 

  • Names, sex, date of birth, and relationship to the family head of all persons who would be living in the unit. 

  • Your present address and telephone number. 

  • Family characteristics (e.g., veteran) or circumstances (e.g., living in substandard housing) 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. 

  • An estimate of your family's anticipated income for the next twelve months and the sources of that income. 

  • The names and addresses of employers, banks, and any other information the PHA would need to verify your income and deductions, and to verify the family composition. 

  • The PHA also may visit you in your home to interview you and your family members.

Either you or PHA staff will fill out a written application. 

After obtaining this information, PHA staff should describe the public housing program and its requirements, and answer any questions you might have.

Will I need to provide any documentation?

Yes. The PHA staff will ask for whatever documentation is needed (e.g., birth certificates, tax returns) to verify the information on your application. 

The PHA will also rely on direct verification from your employer, etc. You will be asked to sign a form to authorize release of pertinent information to the PHA.

Is there a waiting list?

If the PHA determines that you are eligible, your name will be put on a waiting list. Once the waiting list reaches your name, the PHA will contact you.  

Are there any selection preferences?

Sometimes there are.  

Each PHA has the discretion to establish preferences to reflect needs in its own community. These preferences will be included in the PHAs written policy manual. Ask what preferences they honor so you will know whether you qualify for a preference.

How will my rent be determined?

Your rent, which is referred to as the Total Tenant Payment (TTP), would be based on your family's anticipated gross annual income less deductions, if any.  

HUD regulations allow PHAs to exclude the following from from annual income:  

  • $480 for each dependent, 

  • $400 for any elderly family, or a person with a disability, and  

  • some medical deductions for families headed by an elderly person or a person with disabilities.  

Based on your application, the PHA staff will apply any deductions to your annual income.

Annual income is the total income expected from all sources for all family members over 18 years of age.

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

  • 30 percent of the monthly adjusted income (monthly adjusted income is annual income less deductions allowed by the regulations), 

  • 10 percent of monthly income, 

  • welfare rent, if applicable, or 

  • a $25 minimum rent or higher amount (up to $50) set by an PHA.

Will I have to sign a lease?

If you are offered a house or apartment and accept it, you will have to sign a lease with the PHA. You may have to give the PHA a security deposit.  

You and the PHA representative should go over the lease together. This will give you a better understanding of your responsibilities as a tenant and the PHA's responsibilities as a landlord.

What is the PHA’s role?

A PHA manages and operates its local public housing program. They may also operate other types of housing programs. 

On-going functions:  

  • Assure compliance with leases. 

  • Set other charges (e.g., security deposit, excess utility consumption, and damages to unit). 

  • Review the family's income at least once every 12 months. 

  • Transfer families from one unit to another to correct over/under crowding or make repairs or renovations, or in response to a transfer request.

  • Terminate leases when necessary.  

Sometimes PHAs provide other services, such as: 

  • homeownership opportunities for qualified families 

  • employment training opportunities 

  • other special training and employment programs for residents, and  

  • support programs for the elderly.

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 your family's income becomes sufficient to obtain housing on the private market, the PHA may review whether your family should stay in public housing.

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