Section 8 Housing


Our US government provides many housing programs to assist the citizens and tax payers of our country with their living situations. Some people have trouble affording new residences, while others have trouble qualifying for assistance due to extenuating circumstances. Some of these programs are very specific in terms and some of them are very loosely controlled. Section 8 housing is a nickname for a program that has helped millions of Americans get back on their feet when their gross annual income would not have afforded a larger scale home.


Funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Section 8 housing is a nickname given to the Housing Choice Voucher program. In order to participate, individuals must meet specific qualifications regarding lower than average income and family size. Qualifying families and individuals will then receive a “voucher” for rent assistance, and most of the time, can choose between inspected and certified homes in safe, low income neighborhoods for a much lower price than the average person would pay.


In order to provide low income families with an acceptable, safe, and affordable residence, privately owned properties are put up for rent by their owners. They (the landlords) and the public housing authorities (PHA) must come to an agreement about a reasonable price for rent. The qualifying low income family will then choose a residence to rent and the public housing authorities will pay the owner (landlord) the portion of welfare assistance that is specifically designated for housing. Sometimes this will be a percentage of the monthly income of the tenant, and sometimes this will be up to 10% of the gross income of the tenant, depending on the area that Section 8 housing is being sought.

Each residence that is available for rental must undergo a series of quality standards tests and inspections, and the public housing authority will do a thorough examination and investigation to ensure that the allocated rental price is appropriate and reasonable. The low-income family is required to pay at least 30% of their gross income toward rent and utilities. If the rent exceeds this percentage, the family is then responsible for paying the landlord the difference. If the rent is not as expensive as what is allocated, the renter can then keep the difference and put it towards everyday expenses. While the program has rigid rules, it is also flexible enough to allow renters to move while still receiving assistance. This especially applies to changing careers and managing a larger family. The assisted individual or family must then terminate the existing lease, notify the public housing authorities, and locate an alternate residence that provides assistance for low income families. If moving out of the local PHA’s jurisdiction, the renter must then consult with the public housing authorities in the area that they wish to relocate, because jurisdictions do not mesh or overlap.


Eligibility is based solely on citizenship status and the gross income rate of the applicant, and family size. It is available exclusively to citizens and only specific non-citizens (they must meet national immigrant status qualifications). Eligibility is determined by the median income rate of the area; eligible applicants only maintain an income that is less than 50% of this value. However, according to federal law, at least 75% of the public housing authority’s vouchers must go to residents whose income does not exceed 30% of the median income of the area, ensuring that those who truly need help will be eligible to receive it.

Upon meeting these qualifications and being deemed a proper candidate for assistance, the anticipating resident will then be added to a waiting list that varies in wait-time and length, depending on the local market and available units. The PHAs do not always choose which families to place in order that they were placed on the list, and sometimes family size and composition will alter the order in which assistance is received. Also, these waiting lists are often closed when the area has more families in need of assistance than funds available. This means the family could wait years for assistance, though this is not common.


The application process varies by area, and some public housing authorities require differing information than others. Generally speaking, a residence seeking individual would need to consult with the PHA is their area and fill out an application with basic information about income, family size and composition, and criminal history. They might then ask for proof of income, proof of residence, and proof of citizenship depending on the agency. The seeker will then be added to a waiting list if they meet qualifications, and will be notified when it is their turn to choose a residence affiliated with the program.


According to federal law, sex offenders are not allowed to participate in the Section 8 housing program for the duration of the time that they are required to register. Additionally, other criminal violations could restrict someone from the program including the distribution or manufacturing of methamphetamines. Each public housing authority has different rules regarding these situations, and it’s best to check with your local agency about local restrictions. Keep in mind, each tenant is responsible for enduring their lease, maintaining clean and acceptable units, and informing the public housing authorities of any change in income or family size. This is not a suggestion, it is a requirement.

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