Public Housing

Last Modified: 07/13/2023

The government helps pay for housing under specific circumstances. This is called “subsidized housing,” and there are several different types of programs available. The most common subsidized housing programs are: Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher, Project-Based Section 8, Section 202, and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

Each year, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sets family income limits that determine your eligibility for financial assistance. The rights and obligations you have as a tenant will depend on the subsidized housing program. If you are not sure which subsidized housing program applies to you, check your lease, contact your landlord, local Housing Authority, the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, or the CLS Helpline 800-405-1417

Public housing is a subsidized housing program limited to low-income individuals and families. Local Housing Authorities (HA) receive money from HUD to pay for their public housing operations. The amount of money they receive depends on the number of public housing units and the amount of rent collected from families who live in those units. 

Families of public housing live in units owned and managed by the HA. Because the HA is the landlord, a family signs a lease with the HA. When a family’s lease is terminated, the public housing subsidy stays with the unit, not the family.

Para español, haga clic aquí.


You have the right to receive written notice of any adverse decision made against you by the HA.

You have the right to request an informal grievance hearing to dispute any adverse decision made against you by the HA.

You have the right to review any evidence the HA plans to use against you at an informal grievance hearing.

You have the right to copy documents in your HA file by paying a small fee.

You have the right to be represented by an attorney at an informal grievance hearing or eviction hearing.

You have the right to testify, present evidence, and ask questions to any witnesses during an informal grievance hearing or eviction hearing.

You have the right to receive a written final decision of the informal grievance hearing.

You have the right to complain to the HA, local code enforcement, or HUD about the conditions of your unit.

Due to the limited number of available public housing units, eligible families are often placed on a waiting list. Local HAs have established policies for opening, closing, selecting, and removing families from waiting lists. Those policies cannot discriminate based on color, disability, familial status, national origin, race, religion, or sex. 

Generally, HAs publish waiting lists online, in their offices, or in local newspapers.

Families who are denied admission into public housing must receive written notice from the HA explaining the reason for the denial. If you believe you were unfairly denied admission, you may submit a written request for an informal grievance hearing.  

The HA may deny you admission for one or more of the following reasons:

  • You have been evicted from federally assisted housing for drug-related criminal activity within the last 3 years;
  • You have prior criminal convictions that threaten the health and safety of other residents or staff;
  • You have participated in illegal drug use;
  • You have prior convictions for selling or manufacturing drugs on the premises of federally assisted housing; 
  • You are a registered sex offender — These individuals are permanently denied admission; or
  • Your use of medical marijuana. 

Because admission rules for public housing are not uniform within a state, county, or city, local HAs must adopt a written Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy (ACOP), establishing rules for their program, in accordance with HUD regulations. The ACOP must be made available to the public.

Your family may choose between two options: flat rent or income-based rent. Flat rent is based on the fair market rent charged for similar unsubsidized housing units in the area. Income-based rent is 30% of the family’s adjusted monthly income (explained below), minus any utility allowance. 

Regardless of the rent option selected, your family must pay at least the minimum rent set by the HA, which can be as high as $50. At any time, you may switch from flat rent to income-based rent due to financial hardship.

Utility allowances are determined by HUD each year to help you pay the cost of utilities not included in your rent. 

Utility allowances are based on current rates and average consumption studies, not on your family’s actual consumption.

The HA determines your adjusted monthly income by subtracting allowable deductions from your gross annual income, and then dividing that amount by 12. 

Your gross annual income includes work wages, salaries, overtime pay, commissions, fees, tips, bonuses, and pay you receive for personal services. It also includes:

  • Net income from a business if you are self-employed;
  • Net income from real estate or personal property: rent, interest, dividends, or capital gains (profit);
  • Periodic payments you receive from Social Security, annuities, insurance policies, retirement funds, pensions, disability or death benefits, and other similar types of periodic income;
  • Unemployment and disability compensation, worker’s compensation, and severance pay (income from an employer where you no longer work);
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);
  • Alimony and child support; and
  • Regular cash donations and gifts.

Mandatory deductions are listed below. Local HAs may adopt additional deductions. If so, they will be published in the ACOP. 

  • $480 for each dependent;
  • $400 for any elderly or disabled family member;
  • A deduction for childcare expenses necessary to enable a family member to go to work or school;
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses for any elderly or disabled family member, if the amount is more than 3% of the family’s annual income; and
  • Childcare expenses necessary to enable a family member to go to work or school.

Each year, the HA will complete an annual recertification to determine if your family is still eligible for public housing. During recertification, you must provide all income documents requested by the HA. Your family or the HA may also request an interim recertification when there is an increase or decrease in your family’s income.

These income changes may affect the amount of rent you pay or the unit size you are eligible for. If your family’s income increases enough to afford housing on the private market, the HA may decide you are no longer eligible for public housing.

The HA may terminate the lease of a family residing in public housing for serious or repeated violations of the lease or for other good cause. 

Termination notices must be in writing, specifically describe the alleged violation, and inform you of your right to request an informal grievance hearing. 

Depending on the violation, your family will get 7 to 30 days to correct the problem. However, state or federal law may not allow any opportunity to correct it at all. 

Common examples of “good cause” include:

  • Nonpayment of rent or other amounts you were supposed to pay;
  • Criminal conviction for selling or making drugs on the premises of any federally assisted housing property;
  • Engaging in drug-related criminal activity on or off the premises;
  • Engaging in criminal activity that threatens the health and safety of other residents or staff;
  • Using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol;
  • People who are living with you without written permission from the HA;
  • Lying or committing fraud during the application or recertification process;
  • Failing to promptly notify the HA of changes in your family size or income; and
  • Failing to complete recertification on time.


Carefully review your lease, the grievance procedure, and any notices you receive from the HA.

Request copies of any evidence the HA plans to use against you at an informal grievance hearing.

If you have received a termination notice from the HA and you do not leave by the date specified in the notice, the HA must file an eviction case to remove you from the public housing unit. The eviction summons and complaint may be personally delivered to you or posted on your door by the sheriff or a certified process server. This is called “service of process.”  The clerk may also send you a copy of the summons and complaint by mail.

You must write and file a response with the court within 5 days of receiving the summons and complaint. If you do not file a response with the court on time, the HA may automatically win the eviction.

In your response, admit or deny each paragraph of the complaint and raise any defenses.

The “court’s registry” is like a bank account the court uses during your eviction case. While your case is pending before the court, you must deposit rent into the court’s registry each month when it is due. 

If you disagree with the amount of rent the HA claims you owe, you may ask the court to schedule a hearing to determine the correct amount. Supporting documentation must be attached to your response, such as proof of payment.

If you do not deposit rent into the court’s registry on time or ask the court to determine the correct amount of rent you owe, the HA may automatically win the eviction.

In an eviction case, the HA is the Plaintiff and you are the Defendant. Raising defenses in your response may keep you from being evicted. Below is a list of common defenses that may apply to your situation.

The person who filed the eviction complaint (the Plaintiff) lacks standing. This means the Plaintiff does not have the right to file the complaint with the court. This defense is commonly used if the HA does not actually own the property.

The eviction is moot. This means the eviction is no longer relevant because you have already moved out.

You are withholding rent after you timely provided a 7-Day Notice. Your 7-Day Notice to the HA must specify the repairs needed and your intention to withhold rent if they are not completed within 7 days. Please visit our Renters’ Rights and Evictions section for more information.

You did not receive a notice from the landlord as required by law. This means the HA did not give you written notice of the violation before filing an eviction case with the court. 

The notice you received from the HA demands money that is not considered rent or additional rent in your lease.

The notice is confusing or contains conflicting instructions.

The notice does not provide enough time for you to correct the violation.

The notice does not provide enough information for you to understand the violation. 

The HA does not inform you of your right to request an informal grievance hearing.

The HA does not allow you to request an informal grievance hearing.  

The HA does not maintain the unit after you timely provided a 7-Day Notice. 

The HA engages in retaliatory conduct. This means the HA increases your rent, decreases services to you, or files/threatens to file an eviction case against you, in response to you exercising your rights as a tenant.

If the HA wins the eviction, the sheriff will serve you with a 24-hour notice to leave the unit. This is called a “Writ of Possession.” If you do not leave the unit within 24 hours, the HA may change the locks and remove your personal property.


Be sure to submit a written request for an informal grievance hearing by the deadline stated in the notice.

Be prepared to present all evidence (documents, emails, reports, witnesses, etc.) that support your position during an informal grievance hearing or eviction hearing.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Public Housing Fact Sheet:

To find your local Public Housing Agency:

For additional information on local housing options and income limits go to HUD’s Florida page:

Next Steps

Newsletter Icon

Check your eligibility.

Find out if you are eligible for free legal assistance.

Chat Icon

Give Us A Call

If you still need assistance, give us a call at (800) 405-1417

Was this information useful?

Please tell us why this information wasn't useful.

Thank you for your feedback!