The Housing Choice Voucher Program, or Section 8, is a federal program run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The Section 8 program provides housing assistance to low-income families. Households with members who are elderly or disabled can also receive housing assistance under the program.
Eligible households will receive financial aid that can help them afford their monthly rent. Vouchers are distributed locally by public housing agencies (PHAs), which also maintain the health and safety standards of the rental units where program members choose to live.
Families that receive a housing voucher are responsible for finding a housing unit where the owner agrees to rent under the Section 8 voucher program. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of the Housing Choice Voucher Program comes from the freedom that recipients are given when finding their new homes.
With this program, low-income housing is no longer limited to units in subsidized housing projects. This low-income housing program offers eligible individuals or families the chance to afford safe and sanitary housing in the private market.
Public housing agencies (PHA) determine an applicant’s eligibility for Section 8 housing so each city’s requirements may have slight variations. Benefits from the housing voucher program are only available for U.S. citizens and non-citizens who hold an eligible immigration status.
Generally, a family’s income must be under 50 percent of the median income for the county or city where the family lives to qualify for low-income housing. Local PHAs typically provide the exact income limits for their area.
If you need housing assistance, finding your local PHA is the first step to apply for Section 8. The U.S. Department of housing of Urban Development (HUD) categorizes all PHAs by state, city and ZIP code on its website. Once you have found a local PHA, it can help you determine your household’s eligibility by comparing your household income, the area’s median income and your family size.
Each PHA decides on which applications it wants to prioritize in order to benefit its community the most. You can also discover if the PHA has any preferences for their applicants, such as the elderly, people with disabilities or those experiencing homelessness. If anyone in your family meets these conditions, your request may be prioritized. Otherwise, your application will be added to Section 8 waitlist for an extended period.
After confirming that you meet the requirements for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, you can begin filling out a Section 8 housing application. Applications for the program can be found at your local PHA, and some cities may offer them online or by mail.
Occasionally, a city or county’s waiting list will fill up and the PHA will limit application periods or stop accepting them altogether. If a local PHA has a full waiting list, check its website or office frequently to see when it will be accepting requests again. Information that you may be required to provide includes:
Note: Applications to sign up for Section 8 are always distributed for free. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandates that housing authorities distribute applications without any fees. Be wary of scammers, who may try to charge you for applications.
Authorized representatives can be requested if you need assistance in providing the required information. Once you have followed the housing authority’s instructions and fill out the Section 8 application, submit it to your PHA. Some offices will return incomplete forms to you, but others will simply dispose of them. Be sure that you have followed your agency’s directions when completing your applications.
Priority cases will generally be handled before other cases, and all other Section 8 applications will be placed on a waiting list. Each public housing agency (PHA) establishes its own criteria for picking applicants from the waiting list. Find out how you can check your waiting list status with the housing office.
Typically, you can check your spot on the list online, by phone or in person at the office. Some locations are able to tell you your exact position on the waiting list, while others can only tell you if your application is still eligible to be considered.
Also, if there are any changes that would affect your application information, such as relates to contact information, income or household members, inform your Section 8 housing office about the changes immediately. Waiting until the last minute may jeopardize your chances of receiving assistance.
After your name is selected from the waiting list for low-income housing, you will be asked to meet for a Section 8 eligibility interview. The PHA will require either all household members, all adult members or just the applicant to appear for the interview.
Interviews are generally held in person, so you must be prepared to visit the location where you are applying. During this interview, you will be asked to provide documents to prove that you meet the Section 8 housing requirements. These documents may include:
After your official interview, the housing authority will determine whether you apply for Section 8 housing. If your Section 8 request is denied, you have the right to know the housing agency’s reasoning for the denial. Many agencies will inform you upon denial, but you also have the right to request a review.