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Learn About Section 8 Housing

In 1974, the Housing Act was amended to create Section 8.

The amend shifted the focus of the nation’s housing program away from developing and managing public housing.

Now, the federally funded assistance program aims to support low-income residents who were spending too much of their earnings on housing.

Also known as the Housing Choice Vouchers Program, this subsidized program is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Currently, this program assists millions of households to afford the lease for privately owned rental units. The HUD administers federal funds to local housing agencies located across the country. These agencies manage the local housing available for low-income tenants through the use of housing vouchers and other means.

Public housing agencies are also responsible for determining whether rental units in their buildings meet the minimum standards of health and safety. The program is the federal government’s largest one directed at assisting eligible applicants to meet the expense of safe and sanitary housing in the private market. Learn more about Section 8 basics and how you can benefit from the program by reading the sections below.

Learn About Section 8 Requirements

Eligibility for housing assistance through public housing vouchers is determined by the total annual gross income and family size of the applicants. Generally, a family’s income cannot exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county they choose to live in to be eligible for Section 8 housing.

Additionally, eligibility for this program can be determined based on whether an applicant or someone in the household qualifies as elderly or as a person with a disability. The housing voucher program is limited to U.S. citizens and certain groups of non-citizens with eligible immigration status.

Unfortunately, not every applicant who is qualified for Section 8 will receive federal assistance. Many states have Section 8 waiting lists because the demand for assistance usually exceeds the limited funds that are distributed to local housing agencies.

In order to focus their resources as efficiently as possible, housing agencies may give preference to a family that is homeless or living in substandard housing, paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent or involuntary displaced. The conditions of preferences are made to target the housing needs and priorities of a specific community.

How does Section 8 housing work?  

For families whose wages are not enough to cover all their living expenses, low-income housing can provide much needed financial assistance. Families that are eligible for the voucher program are given the opportunity to choose their own housing.

Typically, the local public housing agency (PHA) will advise beneficiaries about the rental unit size that a family is eligible for based on family size and composition. An employee of the local PHA will also determine if the rent that a landlord requests a reasonable price compared to other rental units in the area.

Once you agree to sign a lease, the housing authority will determine your assistance based on the standard amount of rent in the local housing market. This determination is only for the amount of assistance you will receive and does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or how much your family may pay.

Your family will sign a lease with the landlord for at least one year and you may have to pay a security deposit. After a year, your lease can be renewed or maintained on a month-to-month basis. As a tenant, you will be required to comply with all lease and program requirements. These requirements include paying your share of the rent on time, adequately maintaining the rental unit and notifying the PHA of any changes in income or family makeup.

Learn About Project-Based Section 8 Housing

In addition to the housing choice voucher program, Section 8 offers project-based assistance throughout many affordable apartments across the country. Project-based assistance is tied to a particular property, and anyone who moves into that property receives subsidized housing.

However, when a resident moves out, the benefits will assist the next residents of those section 8 apartments. Unlike vouchers, residents cannot take project-based assistance with them when they move.

How can Section 8 benefit you?

In short, the Section 8 housing choice voucher program will directly fund the balance of your rent payment that exceeds 30 percent of your monthly income. Local PHAs will pay the housing assistance payments directly to your landlord. If your household receives a housing voucher, you can select a rental unit that is above or below the payment standard.

However, you will be responsible for paying the additional cost for a more expensive unit. Housing choice vouchers are incredibly beneficial because they allow you to choose a housing option based on the cost and condition of a property. There are no limitations on location, building types or other features.

Section 8 assistance is designed to meet the housing needs of a family, and that may change over time. Changes in family size, job locations or safety concerns can require a family to move to a new home. Since benefits are allotted to families, the housing choice voucher program allows them to move without losing housing assistance.

Moving is acceptable, but families must notify the PHA in advance, terminate their existing lease within the lease provisions and have adequate new housing.

Note: Whenever you and your family move to new Section 8 apartments, your new rent cannot cost more than 40 percent of your household’s adjusted monthly income.

The savings will afford you more money to spend on food and health care if a majority of your finances were used to pay for rent. If you and your household are eligible for assistance from Section 8, the benefits can help your family live above the poverty line.

Section 8 rentals can keep you from spending most of your monthly income on your rent. Moreover, the strict housing quality standards of the program can facilitate healthy living arrangements that can improve your mental and physical health. Combined with increased access to other public benefits like food stamps or temporary assistance, Section 8 vouchers can improve your overall quality of life.