Under the Section 8 program, recipients can live in either tenant-based or project-based rentals.
Both types are considered subsidized housing since public housing agencies (PHAs) pay the private owners of these developments to host Section 8 renters. One of the key distinctions between the two types is who or what the housing voucher is fixed to. Tenant-based vouchers are fixed to individuals or families. This means that the household can take or keep vouchers when moving to a new location. A project-based voucher is fixed to a specific property.
A family’s acceptance into the voucher program is based primarily on income. The maximum eligible income varies depending on the median income of an area or ZIP code in which the family lives. Qualifying Section 8 families or individuals can earn at most 50 percent of the median income of the area they live in. However, certain factors like disability, age and number of children can allow families who earn up to 80 percent of their areas’ median incomes to receive for vouchers.
Tenant-based rental assistance is the most funded aspect of the Section 8 program. With a housing choice voucher, families can choose where they want to live in if the landlord accepts the voucher. This program helps individual households pay for their rent and provides subsidies to the landlord who owns the using unit. Many participants in the program favor this type of assistance because it gives them a greater degree of choice than project-based housing would, allowing them to choose affordable housing in virtually any neighborhood. The portability of the voucher also makes sudden or necessary moves much easier.
The most important qualification for the Housing Choice Voucher Program is income. Qualifying families can earn at most 80 percent of the median income of the area in which they live, but most households earn no more than 50 percent of the median income in their area. For example, the median income for Miami Dade County is $52,300 per person. According to the county’s calculations, a family of four making $62,950 would be at 80 percent of the median. If that same family made $39,350, it would be at 50 percent of the median, and at 30 percent if it made just $25,100.
It can be difficult to calculate these numbers yourself since median incomes are usually given per person and not per household, so contact your PHA for more information. Other qualifying factors include:
Those receiving tenant-based vouchers are responsible for finding appropriate and affordable housing for themselves. This means that they apply for Section 8 apartments in the same manner that non-Section 8 recipients do. Because they can apply at virtually any eligible property, they are at risk of being turned away if the landlord does not accept the voucher program. This gives landlords some authority over which Section 8 tenants they will accept. It is thus the landlord’s responsibility to act with integrity and fairness when screening housing applicants.
Once accepted into a Section 8 rental, renters must stay eligible to continue receiving vouchers. This involves living at the property, only housing family members who are on the lease, paying rent and utilities on time and refraining from criminal activities.
Landlords are also responsible for upholding their part of Section 8 rental lease agreement. They must also maintain Section 8 apartment units up to the standards of HUD. All Section 8 units must be safe, sanitary and livable. Some of these standards include:
One of the biggest hurdles of the program is the Section 8 waiting list. Often, individuals and families, once accepted, wait for months or years to receive a voucher. However, families on waiting lists are not served on a first-come, first-serve basis. A Section 8 waiting list is usually organized based on preference and priority. Those who have a disability, are considered elderly or classify as veterans are given higher preference than those who do not fall into these categories. Those who work more than 35 hours per week are given more preference than those who work 20 to 34 hours or none at all.
Many tenants in project-based Section 8 rentals are elderly or disabled. Additionally, they hold jobs, recently held jobs or were subject to work requirements due to other programs like unemployment. At least 40 percent of project-based units must be reserved for low-income housing families with extremely low incomes. This means the family’s income cannot exceed 30 percent of the local median income or poverty line, whichever is higher.
Housing projects were initially created for public housing, not for Section 8 rentals. Projects are property developments in which most or all units of the development are meant to serve low-income renters. The owners of the property are given government subsidies to make up for the percentage of rent not paid by the tenant. Section 8 projects are very much like public housing projects but are overseen by private property owners rather than local housing authorities.
The eligibility requirements for Section 8 project-based rental assistance is similar to tenant-based qualifications under the Section 8 program. Those accepted into project-based Section 8 housing also must meet the income requirements in which a household must make at most 50 percent of the median income of the area. If there are any members in the household who are elderly, disabled, veterans or children, then that family can qualify at 80 percent of the median income. In most project-based Section 8 apartment developments, at least 40 percent of units must be reserved for extremely low-income or those who make 30 percent of the median income. To qualify, all members of the household are subject to background checks and are required to fill out consent forms.