The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known by the name Section 8, is an assistance program that aims to help those with low-income, elderly individuals and those with disabilities to afford housing.
Section 8 is one of the federal government’s largest housing assistance programs that can be used to find adequate housing that is privately owned.
Vouchers from this program are funded federally, but they are distributed by local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs).
Unlike subsidized housing projects, participants are free to use their vouchers on any housing that meets the program’s standard requirements.
These housing vouchers can be used to find housing in single-family homes, townhouses, apartments and condos.
However, beneficiaries are responsible for finding housing that meets Section 8 requirements, and where the owner agrees to participate in the program.
Read more to learn more about the eligibility requirements to participate in Section 8.
Learn About Section 8 Housing Requirements
The Section 8 program is managed by local PHAs, so the PHA in the area you wish to move to will help you determine your eligibility.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old, hold citizenship or eligible immigration status and provide documents as proof of these facts in order to participate in the program.
Currently, undocumented immigrants do not meet the qualifications to apply for voucher assistance.
Furthermore, the Section 8 program will look into the rental history of all applicants who have previously received housing assistance.
Any applicants who have been evicted from public housing or any Section 8 program because of criminal activity related to drugs will be ineligible for housing assistance for a certain period of time.
Typically, from the date the applicant was were evicted, he or she will lose access to assistance for three years.
The most important factors that are considered when determining Section 8 eligibility are a family’s size and their total annual income. Since Section 8 is a needs-based program, a family’s annual income must fall within the income limits of their area.
During the application process, the PHA will gather information about a family’s income, assets and composition when determining eligibility
What are the Section 8 income limits?
In order to fall within Section 8 income limits for eligibility, a family’s income will generally need to be less than 50 percent of the median income for the area where they choose to live.
Typically, local PHAs are required to provide 75 percent of their voucher funds to families who make less than 30 percent of the median income in the area.
When you apply for Section 8 housing vouchers, your local PHA will collect information about your family’s total income, assets and size.
The PHA will then verify this information by reaching out to other local agencies, as well as your employers and banks.
Using this financial information, the housing agency will determine your eligibility for housing vouchers and your benefit amount.
Some income information that you may need to provide in order to prove your eligibility for Section 8 includes:
- Proof of income with pay stubs, W2 forms or tax returns.
- Bank statements.
- Documents showing any public assistance benefits your family receives.
- Information on any additional assets your family owns.
- A Social Security Verification Letter and Proof of Benefits, if applicable.
In specific circumstances, your family may be eligible to receive priority on the Section 8 waiting list based on your local PHA’s preferences.
For example, certain agencies give priorities to families with elderly members, members with disabilities or those facing homelessness.
Contact your local PHA to find out about local preferences that you and your family may be eligible for.
How to Apply for Section 8
In order to apply for Section 8 housing, your first step is to find your local PHA. You can locate your nearest PHA by visiting the website of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The website allows you to search for your local PHA and access their contact information by state, city or zip code.
Next, you will want to speak with a representative at the PHA so that they can help you determine if you and your household are eligible for benefits.
During this time, you should ask the representative if there are any local preferences for applicants who can receive housing assistance before others.
In most cases, these are households with elderly members, members with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness, but there can be other preferences in place.
Let the PHA know if your circumstances meet any of the preference criteria to reduce your time waiting for assistance.
Once you have confirmed that you meet the eligibility requirements for Section 8, you can obtain an application for the program.
Depending on your PHA, the application may be available to you online, by mail or at the office of the local housing authority. Some information that may be required to complete the application include your:
- Date of birth.
- Social Security Number.
- Mailing address.
- Phone number.
- Housing history.
- Household members’ gross incomes, if applicable.
- Household members’ email addresses.
- Household members’ criminal history, if applicable.
Once completed, it is beneficial to turn in your application and supporting documents before the due date in order to avoid rejection.
If your application is approved, you may be placed on a waiting list if there is a line for housing assistance in your area.
Learn about Section 8 waiting lists here. When a spot in the program becomes available, your PHA should contact you and provide you with a housing voucher.
Will I lose my Section 8 qualifications if I move?
One of the most significant benefits of the Section 8 housing voucher program is that beneficiaries should not lose their eligibility if they move.
Since housing vouchers are issued to the applicants and not the housing unit, participants can usually move without facing a lapse in their benefits.
The only requirement is that the beneficiaries notify their PHA in advance of the move.
The family will also be responsible for ending their lease within the terms of the rental agreement and finding housing in the new location where they move.
Participants are still required to find housing that meets the program’s established housing quality standards. Furthermore, the family must fall within the income limits of the new area in order to maintain their eligibility.