Your Guide to Section 8 Housing

The Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a program designed to provide housing assistance to low-income families, seniors and people living with disabilities.



In certain circumstances, your application for housing vouchers may be denied. Learn more about Section 8 eligibility requirements, common reasons for denials, how to appeal a denial and more.

Learn About Section 8 Requirements

In order to receive housing vouchers, you must meet the Section 8 eligibility requirements in your state.

Your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) can help you determine whether or not you are eligible to receive housing vouchers. In order to apply applicants must meet some general requirements including:

  • Being at least 18 years old.
  • Holding citizenship or eligible immigration status and be able to provide proof.
  • Not having been evicted from public housing or Section 8 due to criminal activity in the last three years.

In addition to the general requirements, there are some income limits in place for participants of the Section 8 program. Typically, a household that makes less than 50 percent of the median income for the area where they are looking to live will be eligible for housing vouchers.

Interested applicants who are unsure whether or not they are qualified for Section 8 are encouraged to visit their local PHA for verification.

Common Reasons for Section 8 Application Denials

If you submit an application for Section 8 housing and you are denied, the denial letter will state the reasoning behind the decision. There are certain circumstances in which your PHA must deny your application and others where it may be denied.

Based on the guidelines established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, your PHA must deny your application for the following reasons:

  • Your required paperwork (consent form, immigration status and etc.) has not been signed or submitted
  • You are a student younger than 24 years of age and you do not have a disability, are not a veteran, do not have a dependent child and are otherwise ineligible for a voucher
  • One or more member of your household was found to be engaging in illegal drug use
  • Your local PHA believes that the illegal drug use one or more of your household members jeopardizes the safety, health or general wellness of the household or neighbors
  • Your local PHA believes that one or more members of your household are engaged in current alcohol abuse or a pattern of alcohol abuses that poses a risk to the safety, health or general wellness of the household or neighbors
  • One or more members of the household are currently registered under the state sex offender registration program
  • One or more member of the household were convicted of manufacturing, producing or distributing methamphetamines while living in public housing
  • One or more members of the household were evicted from public housing for drug-related activity in the past three years

Note: If the member of your household who was engaging in drug-related activity completes an approved and supervised drug rehabilitation program, your application may be accepted. If the household member is no longer a part of your household because they passed away, went to jail or moved out on their own for example, the application for Section 8 may be accepted. 

There are certain circumstances that allow for your PHA do deny your application based on its discretion. Generally, Public Housing Agencies will consider your household’s history of rent payments, recorded disturbances, property destruction and more. 

Using this information, your PHA may decide to deny your application for Section 8 benefits. For example, your Public Housing Agency may deny your Section 8 application if something leads them to expect that moving if you move in, it will negatively affect your neighbors. 

Learn About Considerations for Section 8 Application Denials

There are certain considerations that a Public Housing Agency can make in order to pursue alternatives to outright denying an application for Section 8 benefits. Some of these considerations include:

  • Removing individual problematic household members: If there is one specific person that is jeopardizing the housing assistance of the rest of the household members, they may be individually removed from the benefits of the housing voucher.
  • Reasonable accommodations: If a member of the household is a person with disabilities, the PHA is responsible for making reasonable accommodations for that person.
  • Protections for survivors of abuse: The PHA is required to provide added protection for someone who is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

How to Appeal a Section 8 Housing Application Denial

If you believe that the evidence presented by the Public Housing Agency to deny your application, you may be able to dispute the denial. Typically, your denial letter will inform you on how to begin the appeal for your denial. If you are interested in filing an appeal, here are some helpful strategies that might help you strengthen your claim:

  • Provide evidence: If you completely disagree with the reason for denial that was provided by the PHA, your best bet is to gather as much evidence as you can. Witnesses, written statements and other forms of tangible evidence can strengthen your defense during your appeal.
  • Personalize your appeal: In some cases, your application may be denied if the PHA believes you will threaten the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises for other residents. In these cases, it can be helpful to get statements from neighbors or the landlord willing to state that you are not negatively impacting them.
  • Attending rehabilitation: Applicants who are denied due to drug or alcohol abuse may be able to appeal their denial if they attend a supervised and approved drug/alcohol program. In these cases, the applicants would need to provide documented evidence of medical intervention and rehabilitation.

Find Out About the Importance of Section 8 Denial Letters

When you receive your section 8 denial letter, read it thoroughly and carefully. Your denial letter will detail the reasons for your denial and will be an asset during your appeal process. If you believe you deserve an approval after reading through your letter, you can request an informal hearing. If you have questions about what is written in your denial letter, the PHA can provide with the reasoning. The HUD website provides a list of contact information PHAs across the states. Find your PHA here.