The Housing Choice Voucher Program, more commonly referred to as Section 8, is a federal program funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Through the program, public housing agencies (PHAs) administer aid to local communities after receiving funding from the HUD. The primary goal of this program is to provide housing assistance for eligible families through the distribution of housing vouchers.
As opposed to previous housing programs that limited tenants to rental units in subsidized housing projects, the Housing Choice Voucher Program offers members the choice to find housing that suits their needs in the private market.
In order to participate in the Section 8 assistance program, applicants are required to meet all the Section 8 housing eligibility requirements. However, since the demand for housing assistance far exceeds the available funds, not everyone who is eligible for the program will be accepted into the program.
In fact, a majority of qualified applicants have to spend extended periods of time on a housing assistance waiting list. Find out more about what it takes to be qualified for the voucher program and some factors that can potentially make you ineligible for housing assistance below.
Specific guidelines have been established to determine whether an applicant qualifies for aid from Section 8 housing. While the specific requirements may vary between each public housing agency (PHA), there are four major factors that are measured when determining Section 8 eligibility on each state. These factors include a household’s income level, family size and composition, citizenship status and history of previous evictions.
Generally, a family is qualified for assistance if its members have a very low income or have an income that is 50 percent of the local area’s median income level. Households with members who are elderly or have disabilities can also be qualified.
Additionally, families with mixed citizenship statuses can still be eligible, but eligibility will only be calculated for the members who meet eligibility requirements. Local PHAs will be able to help applicants determine the income limits and other eligibility factors for the area. Any applicant who does not meet these Section 8 eligibility guidelines will be denied during preliminary eligibility determinations.
Note: Federal law states that housing authorities must provide the reason for denying an application for housing assistance. If an application is denied, an official reason can be requested from the denying housing agency.
Individuals who meet Section 8 requirements may still lose their eligibility for a variety of reasons. Most cases are handled individually on a case-by-case basis, so Section 8 housing disqualifications are subject to slight changes between agencies. Your application for housing vouchers may be denied if you or anyone in your household:
Note: Any applicant who has been denied admission into a Section 8 waiting list due to engagement in criminal activity can appeal the denial decision. The applicant must then show evidence that she or he has not engaged in misconduct or similar behaviors for a reasonable period of time. The housing authority can make the final decision over what is considered a sufficient amount of time.
According to regulations established by the HUD, an application may be denied for certain reasons. Some of these factors may be discovered during your Section 8 eligibility interview or during the background checks and tenant screenings.
Some of the most frequently occurring reasons for denial include when an applicant or someone in a household:
Note: After an application is denied because a household member was engaged in drug-related criminal activity, there are certain circumstances that will allow a family access to the program. For example, if the family member completes a supervised and approved rehabilitation program, the family may be granted access to Section 8 housing.
Additionally, if the household member who was involved with illicit activities goes to jail or passes away, that person can be removed as a member of the household, making the family eligible for Section 8.
There are numerous regulations in place in order to protect potential tenants from discrimination when they apply for Section 8 housing. One such regulation, the Fair Housing Act, prohibits discrimination in housing assistance based on the race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and familial status of applicants.
This law was made for all housing services, and it is especially important for low income housing. A landlord also cannot refuse to rent to an applicant simply because that applicant has a section 8 voucher. Together with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act works to ensure that tenants are legally protected against discrimination.
Those who believe that they have experienced discrimination while seeking housing assistance or engaging in other housing-related activities is suggested to file a complaint with the HUD. Individuals who file complaints are also protected against retaliation.