Common Questions About Section 8 Housing

What is Section 8? What are Housing Choice Vouchers?

In practice, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program will pay the balance of a rent payment that exceeds 30% of a renters monthly income. The rental unit must be inspected and approved by the local housing authority and the rental amount must be at or below the Fair Market Rent set by HUD.

The program is administered by your local housing authority. Each housing authority has different preferences and requirements based on their service areas affordable housing needs. You should contact your local housing authority for specific details on how to qualify and apply for the Section 8 Housing Choice voucher program.

Technically, it is language located in section 201 of Title 2 of Public Law 93-383, also known as the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. This law, amended the Housing Act of 1937, the second piece of housing legislation in America's history (the first being The Housing Act of 1934, part of Roosevelt's New Deal).

The 1974 law created a brand new housing assistance program (page 30 of the PDF) "Low Income Housing Assistance" that helped renters pay their rent at privately owned rental properties.

In recent years, due to Federal budget controls, the Section 8 or Housing Choice Voucher Program as it now officially called, has not seen funding increase to meet demand. For this reason, waiting lists for the assistance are long in most areas of the country with waiting lists taking several years to flush.

How do I qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8)?

You should contact your local housing authority to get all the details but the most basic requirement is your income. Generally, if you earn less than fifty percent (50%) of the Area Median Income (AMI) for the area where you live, you can qualify. However, by law, the program is required to target 75% of assistance to families who earn thirty (30%) or less of the AMI.

The are a few other basic requirements like citizenship (or certain categories of legal residents) and owned assets. To learn more, contact your housing authority.

Who Do I Talk to Apply for Section 8?

Again, your local housing authority is the first place to start. The program, though a Federal program, is carried out at the local level by housing authorities. You can find your housing authority by using our handy housing authority search tool.

If I'm lucky enough to get a Section 8 voucher, how much rent will I pay?

Under the Section 8 voucher program, your contribution to rent is fairly simple math. The formula looks like this.

Tenant Rent Payment = Monthly Income X 30%

The formula to calculate the amount paid to your landlord by the assistance looks like this.

Assistance Amount = Total Rent - Tenant Rent Payment

So, if your monthly income is $1,850, you would pay $555 toward the rent ($1,850 X 30%). If the total rent for the apartment is $850, the assistance will pay $295 to the landlord on your behalf.

How long will it take to get a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher?

With Federal budget cuts these days, it will surely take a while to receive Section 8 housing assistance. Nearly every housing authority in the country has a very long waiting list. If you apply today, it will almost certainly take more than a year to receive the assistance. But don't let this stop you from applying. If you don't get on the waiting list, you'll never get the opportunity.

In some special cases, housing authorities may have priority waiting lists (for homeless persons, victims of domestic violence or other special groups). It's strongly recommended you contact your local housing authority to find out more.

Are the types of housing I am eligible for with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers limited?

Yes and no. Your housing options are limited by the Section 8 program based mainly on the cost of rent and the condition of the property. The rent for the property must be within certain limits and it must meet a physical inspection that requires the home to have certain quality standards.

But other than that, there are no limits on its location, building type or other features.

Almost all of the properties you find on our web site are happy to accept Section 8. And, for the most part, most landlords are willing to accept a Section 8 voucher if you have proven to be a good tenant prospect by having good credit, a clean criminal report and good rental history at other properties.

Can I take my housing assistance with me if I move to a new city?

Yes. Housing Choice Vouchers are portable which means you carry them with you no matter where you go in the country. You can take a voucher you received in Vermont and move to Kentucky with it.

What's the difference between tenant-based and project-based Section 8?

Good question. There are two types of Section 8. The "voucher" is attached to you the tenant. But there is another type that is less understood. Project-based Section 8 is attached to a specific property. If you move into the property, you get the same type of financial assistance as with a voucher, but if you move out, it stays with the property and benefits the next resident of that home. Many affordable apartment communities across the country have project-based Section 8 assistance. These properties also tend to have long waiting lists.