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Under federal and Montana Section 8 requirements, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) partners with local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) to help elderly, low-income and disabled renters find and secure clean, safe housing. Individuals and families can qualify for assistance on the basis of age, disability status, income or a combination of those factors. Other Section 8 qualifications include citizenship and residency. In some cases, applicants’ criminal or housing histories may also influence eligibility. Section 8 does not discriminate on race, gender, country of origin or any other protected characteristic.
Each year, HUD establishes maximum Section 8 income limits to which applicants’ incomes are compared to determine eligibility. Some PHAs, however, may implement additional standards in response to demand for assistance in their regions. Alternatively, they may prioritize certain sub-populations, such as involuntarily displaced families, during the Section 8 application process.
Many types of individuals or groups of individuals can qualify as a “family” under the HUD housing requirements definition. For the purposes of Section 8 eligibility, a family can be one or more persons who are or have been living together regardless of:
Families do not need to include children. PHAs can determine if an applicant’s household meets the family standards. Section 8 housing eligibility guidelines consider children, however, even in situations where applicants’ children are living in alternative placements, such as foster care, at the time of the application.
Live-in aides assisting applicants who are elderly or disabled may be considered part of a family if, per Section 8 qualification criteria, their presence is necessary to ensure the applicants’ care and overall health.
Families may be classified as “elderly” or “near-elderly” families depending on the age of the head of household, or “disabled” families if applicants or their spouses have qualifying disabilities. These designations will not reduce families’ likelihood or receiving funding, but may increase it.
Section 8 income requirements are based on family size and region. HUD defines households as “low-income” if their median incomes are 80 percent or less of the median income in the region served by the PHA to which they are applying for assistance. Households are classified as “very low-income” if their annual incomes fall at or below 50 percent of the regional median and “extremely low-income” if they make less than 30 percent of the regional median, annually.
Section 8 income limits also scale by family size. So, for example, in the Beaverhead region, a single person family qualifies as low-income if it has an annual income of $37,350 or less. A family of four is considered low-income if it brings in $53,350 or less each year. In the Dawson region, the maximum Section 8 eligibility limit for a single person family to qualify as low-income is $38,000 annually, and the upper limit for a family of four is $53,350. Although the percentage limits remain the same from year to year, HUD updates the figures for regional median incomes annually.
In many cases, federal Section 8 income limits are only one component of the income eligibility factors applicants must meet. In areas where there is excessive need for assistance and insufficient funding to meet that need, PHAs may adopt more strict criteria. For example, an agency may prioritize extremely low-income applicants and choose not to fund very low- or low-income applicants until all of their qualifying extremely low-income applicants have been served. Applicants might, therefore, meet the basic Section 8 income requirements but not meet the PHA income qualifications to receive priority assistance. In that case, applicants could expect to remain on the PHA’s waitlist for an extended period of time, unless or until additional funding became available.
Many potential applicants wonder, “do I qualify for low income housing assistance if I am not a US. Citizen or a resident of Montana?” The Section 8 program requires that vouchers be awarded only to United States citizens and qualifying aliens, such as:
All applicants will be required to provide Social Security Numbers (SSNs) or resident alien numbers with their applications so that their PHAs can verify they meet these Section 8 qualifications.
Montana PHAs may accept applications from out-of-state residents, but the likelihood of such applicants receiving funding may be very small due to high demand for assistance among existing local residents.
In addition to the standardized Section 8 housing eligibility guidelines on age, disability status and income, PHAs are permitted to evaluate applicants against supplemental criteria of their choosing. They are also allowed to designate funding priorities and to give preference to applicants who fall within their priority areas.
Generally, PHAs implement regional Section 8 requirements to address needs specific to their areas or in the hope of increasing stability among local high-risk populations. For instance, a PHA might choose to give first priority to families involuntarily displaced from other low-income housing situations because they are at high risk of becoming homeless or losing access to other critical services and supports.
PHAs may also use supplemental eligibility criteria to screen applicants in an effort to identify those most likely to successfully abide by federally-established HUD housing requirements. These applicants are statistically most likely to benefit from the Section 8 program and to remain stably housed with Section 8 assistance. To that end, PHAs often ask about applicants’:
Applicants with a history of being unstable, unruly or problematic tenants may be denied assistance. Similarly, applicants found to have participated or be participating in recent or violent criminal activity will generally not be offered funding, even if they meet the baseline Section 8 program qualifications.
Applicants may be disqualified if they have been dropped from other state and federal assistance programs due to fraud, failure to comply with program rules or ill treatment of program representatives. Often, they may also be denied assistance if they have a history of damaging, vandalizing or grossly failing to maintain their living spaces. Certain tenant disqualifications can vary by location, but they often share similar conditions. Section 8 applicants can find contact information for Montana HUD offices by clicking here.