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Section 8 qualifications are not something the ordinary Virginia resident contemplates until it is needed. This can leave you wondering what your next steps should be or wondering if you even meet the basic requirements. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been around for a very long time and the Section 8 requirements and applications have been streamlined to make the process quicker for applicants. However, before filling out the application, it is a good idea to figure out if you might be eligible for the program.
Virginia has strict Section 8 income limits that must be met in order to qualify. Other Section 8 eligibility criteria is based on the number of people in your household, residency in the state and whether you are a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Additionally, qualifying incomes can vary from one part of the state to the next. This is because Section 8 eligibility is based on the median income of those living in your area and how far below this your income falls. The following information can help guide you in making your own determination of eligibility before applying for Section 8.
Most states, when determining Section 8 housing eligibility, abide by the definition of a family as determined by the HUD. A family can be a single person or a group of people who live together and can include children, the elderly, the disabled, a displaced persons or a child who is temporarily living in foster care away from the home. Basically, any group of people who present themselves as one unit for the purpose of assistance and who will be living together can be considered a family. Exclusions are made for home health aides and temporary foster children who are staying with the family a short while. Adopted children are counted as part of the family.
Many first time applicants ask, “Do I qualify for low income housing if both of us have jobs?” The answer is dependent on where in Virginia you live and how much you make. Each county has its own salary ranges that can qualify an applicant as low income, very low income or extra low income. These designations are based on how far below the median salary your combined household is. To get a precise breakdown of these income limits in your area simply locate your public housing authority (PHA) office. Most post these numbers directly on their website. The numbers you see there indicate the maximum income that is allowable for a family to have and still meet Section 8 housing eligibility for their area.
To give you an idea of the numbers, the Virginia state median income level for a family of four is $84,700. You would have to make 30 percent of that (approximately $24,410) to be considered extremely-low income, 50 percent of that ($42,350) to be considered very-low income and 80 percent of that ($67,760) to be considered low income. Keep in mind, however that Section 8 income requirements will be adjusted further by county, so while these figures can give you an idea of the designations and income limits, they may be quite different in your own area.
HUD housing requirements for Section 8 in Virginia stipulate you have to have established residency in the state. You will be asked to prove this and can do so by providing a utility bill with your name and address on it, a driver’s license, or other identifying material that shows a local state address. You must also prove you are a U.S. citizen or have legal immigrant status. Usually the PHA will accept a Social Security number as proof of this, a birth certificate or alien registration papers. If you have applied for a green card but have not received it yet, you can show the application papers or temporary ID issued. For purposes of becoming eligible for Section 8 only one person, the person applying, has to be a legal citizen.
You can learn how to qualify for Section 8 housing by directly speaking with an agent at the local PHA, but under some circumstances you may feel uncomfortable, or are unable to do so. Some applicants qualify for Section 8 in every way but will be ultimately denied benefits for other reasons. Some of those reasons can include a negative background check. Background checks are mandatory for those whose names are selected by lottery to go onto the upper portions of the waitlist.
If a background check shows a negative history of payments, including late payments or defaults, especially to other public housing (in VA or other states), then you will be denied benefits. Additionally, Section 8 qualifications require those living in your household to have a background of safe behavior. If you or someone in your family has a criminal record it will not immediately disqualify you, and is reviewed on a case by case basis. Be prepared to show the PHA officer all papers relating to the incarceration or arrest. If the criminal conviction was of a serious nature, then you will be denied benefits.
Many who would like to meet Section 8 eligibility rules worry that a criminal past will automatically disqualify them. However, unless the crime involved murder, manufacture of Class A drugs, or a violent sexual offense, then the PHA officer can still review the application. Each case is evaluated individually and if the crime was in the distant past and there were no further incidents with the law, the chances are very good that the application will be accepted (if all other criteria are met).
Waiting lists for Section 8 qualifications are by lottery, meaning that even if you qualify, you may be placed very far down on the waitlist, or not at all. In Virginia, the Section 8 program is not a first come first served assistance program. Certain districts in the Commonwealth give preferential placement to individuals in varying and dire circumstances, but this is left up to the discretion of each individual PHA.
To contact your Virginia HUD office, click here.