Searching for Housing

Searching for rental housing is a multi-step process. First, it is critical to understand an individual’s housing needs, housing budget, and rental history. If the individual receives rent assistance, find out the maximum rent (including tenant paid utilities) the program will approve. Next, look for properties that meet the person's needs, are within budget, and have an available unit. Finally, the individual must meet the landlord’s application standards and, if applicable, the landlord must be willing to accept rent assistance. In a high cost area such as Northern Virginia where the rental housing market is tight, it can be challenging to find units that “check all of the boxes.” Below are several helpful tools to make the search process a little easier.

The Find Housing Query tool helps users look for rental properties by affordability type (market rent, deep subsidy, shallow subsidy), jurisdiction and/or zip code, and population served (older adult, persons with disabilities). This tool can help narrow the field of potential properties for consideration, but does not provide information about current unit availability and current rents.

For information on currently available rental properties, check out the Rental Housing Search Sites. This list includes websites with powerful search engines that can pinpoint available units based on a variety of filters, including location, rent range, unit size, and lease term. Some websites include both commercial rental properties and units that are for rent by private owners.

If you are looking for rental housing that involves sharing a house or apartment, take a look at the Shared Housing Search Sites. The sites on this list have search engines that identify units using the filters above. Many sites also permit users to exchange information about housemate preferences.

Some people want regular updates about affordable rental housing that becomes available in their community. A few jurisdictions have electronic communications that individuals can receive to stay on top of new rental housing opportunities.

Occasionally, individuals need a more hands-on approach to finding rental housing that meets their needs. Housing locators are knowledgeable about landlord-tenant and fair housing laws, are familiar with rental properties in the community, and often have relationships with landlords that accept rent assistance. They can help negotiate with landlords on behalf of individuals with poor credit or other problems that may reduce their likelihood of being approved to rent housing.