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How to Become a Section 8 Participant

How to Become a Section 8 ParticipantThe U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) and oversees their administering of the Section 8 program.

This housing program, also known as Section 8, can help very low-income families afford sanitary and safe housing that they pick for themselves.

With the expansion of the housing choice voucher program, applicants are no longer limited to subsidized housing projects when looking for a place to live.

Housing assistance provided by the federal government can be an incredible help for anyone who meets the Section 8 eligibility requirements and are approved for the program. Approved participants are given housing vouchers which allow them to find housing that suits their family’s personal needs.

The housing authority will directly fund payment for the percentage of a participant’s rent that exceeds 30 percent of your monthly income. Since local PHAs will issue payments directly to landlords, participants will only need to pay their portion of the rent each month. The money saved can be used to pay for food and other necessities.

Learn About Section 8 Requirements

In order to use federal funds to assist the households that need it the most, Section 8 housing has certain eligibility guidelines. The specific details of these guidelines differ from area to area, but they are all determined considering four factors. The factors that are considered when applying for low-income housing include:

  • Income Level – On average, a household’s income level must be less than 50 percent of the local median income of the area. The income limits are adjusted based on the location of the housing agency and the number of members there are in a household.
  • Family size and composition – Families with more members will have a higher limit on their household income for eligibility. If there is an elderly family member or a family member with a disability, the household may qualify for Section 8 housing.
  • Citizenship status – Only citizens and certain legal immigrants are qualified to apply.
  • Previous evictions – Households that are repeatedly evicted from their housing may have a higher risk of future evictions and can be denied housing assistance.

About Factors That Can Disqualify a Section 8 Application

Regulations for Section 8 eligibility state that there are certain circumstances in which a housing agency must deny a Section 8 application. Typically, these circumstances are related to an applicant’s past activities or actions if those actions could potentially create unsafe environments for neighbors or general issues for landlords.

All issues are examined on a case-by-case basis. The most serious reasons why an application can be denied include individuals or household members who:

  • Have been evicted from subsidized low-income housing for a serious lease violation.
  • Are currently engaged in the use or production of illicit drugs.
  • Have shown a history or pattern of abuse of illegal drugs or alcohol that can be threatening to the health and safety of other residents.

Note: Every time a Section 8 application is denied, the housing authority must provide a reason for the denial. If any of the circumstances that led to a denial have changed, households have the option to file a Section 8 application appeal.

Learn About the Section 8 Waiting List

Unfortunately, the need for housing assistance in America far exceeds the funding available to the HUD. Many eligible applicants are never able to receive the financial support they need in order to secure a home. Most housing agencies will have Section 8 waiting lists where they place almost all interested applicants.

Large metropolitan cities tend to have longer lists than smaller towns, and hopeful candidates can apply at multiple locations to increase their chances of finding housing assistance. In some places, it is not uncommon for applicants on a waiting list to wait over a year before they even receive an eligibility interview. When waiting lists become too excessive, PHAs have the authority to close the list and stop taking applications.

Some locations have waiting lists that are open indefinitely, while others will set specific dates during which they will accept new applications. Anyone interested in applying for Section 8 is recommended to call the housing agencies that interest them and ask about their application processes.

Certain priority cases are given preference and moved toward the top of waiting lists. These cases are typically reserved for applicants who are:

  • Homeless or living in substandard housing.
  • Paying over half of their household income on rent.
  • Involuntary displaced.
  • Victims of child abuse or domestic violence.

Learn About Section 8 Waiting List Lotteries

With the abundance of hopeful households, waiting list lotteries are the fairest way to determine the order in which Section 8 applications are processed. Some locations, such as in Miami Dade County, will only accept applications during a designated timeframe.

After the application period has ended, everyone who has submitted a request will be given a number that was randomized by a computer system. This number is the applicant’s place in line. Once applicants reach the top of a waiting list, the housing authority will mail appointment letters, letting them know they can move on to the next step of the process, which is the eligibility interview.

However, each housing agency chooses which applicants it would like to prioritize. Applicants with members who have disabilities or are elderly can typically skip past the waiting list lottery or at least get through it more quickly.

Find Out About the Section 8 Interview

One of the last steps to becoming a participant in the housing program is to complete an in-person Section 8 eligibility interview. These interviews are usually used to verify that all the information provided on applications is accurate and honest. Candidates will usually be required to bring various documents to prove the information that they have included on their forms.

Those who are given priority may be asked to prove their need for expedited service. Standard applicants will need to prove their identities, income and citizenship status. Prospective tenants are also required to undergo a background check for their renting and criminal histories. If the background checks come back without any cause for denial, housing vouchers will be distributed shortly after.