Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance Guide

  • The Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) program provides affordable apartment communities that are owned by private landlords with a rental subsidy that helps pay the rent for low income tenants.
  • Called the Total Tenant Payment (TTP), program tenants pay either:
  1. 0% of their monthly income (gross income minus exclusions)
  2. 30% of their monthly adjusted income (gross income minus exclusions and deductions)
  3. A minimum rent of $25.
  • The Project-Based Section 8 rental subsidy may be available for every unit in a property, or a select number of units in the apartment community.
  • Do not confuse this program with the Section 8 Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program. The PBV program is managed by a Public Housing Agency as an offshoot of its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.

Who Qualifies for the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance Program?

Basic Requirements

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old, and a United States citizen or noncitizen who has eligible immigration status.
    • Eligible immigration status includes a lawful permanent resident; registry immigrant; refugee or asylee; conditional entrant; parolee; withholding grantee; person granted 1986 amnesty status; resident of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and Guam; victim or relative of a victim of trafficking.
  • Single persons are eligible, as well as households with or without children.
  • HUD commonly refers to a household as a “family,” so don’t let that term confuse you. A “family” consists of one or more persons, and having children is not required to be considered a “family.”
    • However, single persons are not permitted to occupy an apartment unit with two or more bedrooms. If a PBRA property does not have any one bedroom units, a single person household would not qualify.

Income Eligibility

  • The household must make less than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) of the area they are applying to.
  • This is referred to as the income limit, and the amount increases for each additional member of the household (including children). 
  • There are many possible adjustments to a household’s gross income including exclusions (like the income of household members under 18) and deductions (unreimbursed medical expenses). Because determining income is so complex, we recommend you contact each property to determine if you are eligible and what your rent will be.
    • PBRA apartment pages on Affordable Housing Online provide the standard income limits for the area that the property is located.
      • On an apartment page, scroll down to the "HUD Rental Assistance Income Qualifications" section.

    Restrictions and Preferences

    Preferences

    Many waiting lists have preferences. Applicants who qualify for waiting list preferences will receive assistance before applicants who do not. Applicants who do not qualify for preferences will usually have a longer wait to receive assistance. Examples of preferences that may appear on a waiting list include the elderly, persons with disabilities, and local residents. More information about preferences can be found here. It is important to know that preferences are not requirements. Applicants may still apply, even if they do not qualify for any preferences.

    Restrictions

    Sometimes, an apartment or entire community may only be available for tenants of a specific demographic, such as elderly or disabled persons.

    Common Disqualifiers

    • Credit Report
      • Applicants will likely have to submit to a credit report.
      • An applicant doesn’t need good credit to qualify, but a poor credit report may make you ineligible.
      • Credit decisions are made on a property-by-property basis. Depending on the geographic area and financial standards of each property owner, your credit requirements can be very different for various apartments.
    • Rental History
      • A list of prior landlords may be required, including the address of the property and landlord contact information.
      • The PBRA property manager may contact previous landlords for a reference.
      • If you have a poor track record as a tenant at other properties, you could be at risk of being rejected as a qualifying tenant. Always try to keep a good relationship with your landlord, and leave a lease on good terms.
    • Criminal Record
      • Having a criminal record may make it difficult for a person to receive housing, but it does not automatically disqualify them.
      • A person with an arrest record, but no conviction, has a greater chance of qualifying over someone who has been convicted of their offense.
      • Felons face much greater difficulty in qualifying, especially if it was a violence or drug related sentence.
      • Applicants with a history of drug use, alcohol abuse, violence, and other criminal activity that would threaten other residents may have difficulty qualifying.
      • Each housing authority operates differently, but may allow persons with a criminal record to qualify based on the length of time since the offense occurred, and the severity of the crime.
      • Persons on any state lifetime sex offender registry are ineligible.
      • Recent convictions may deem a household ineligible.
      • Any person who has been evicted from federally assisted housing in the past three years for drug-related criminal activity would be denied, unless special circumstances are met
        • The household member who engaged in the criminal activity must either successfully complete a supervised drug rehabilitation program approved by the housing authority, or be removed from the household. Even then, it is up to the housing authority's discretion to approve these households.
    • False Information
      • Be truthful with the information you write on an application.
      • Putting false information on the application may not only disqualify you, but also get you in legal trouble.
      • If you are unsure about what to write down in a section of the application, contact the housing office.

    How Do I Find a Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance Apartment?

    Search for PBRA apartments in your area here.

    • The housing program is identified on property pages.

    How Do I Apply to a Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance Apartment?

    • Applications must be submitted to the apartment's property management company.
    • There must be an open waiting list, or immediate availability to apply.

    Obtain the application.

    • After finding a PBRA apartment in your area, select the green "Contact" button and either:
      • Select "Send a Message"
      • Call the listed phone number.
    • Applications are usually available online, by mail, or in the housing authority's office. The application must be obtained per the housing office’s instructions. For example, if the application must be completed online only, paper applications will not be available.
      • Reasonable Accommodation. The only exception to this rule is if a disabled applicant requires a reasonable accommodation to apply. Besides reasonable accommodations, if an applicant cannot complete the application on their own, they may have another person (like a social worker) complete the application on their behalf.
      • Online applications.
        • If the application is online, and an applicant does not have access to the Internet, they can use a friend or family member's computer/device, or one at a local library.
        • Online applications may require the applicant to create a free account through an online portal, and/or have a valid email address. If you do not have an email address, you can create one for free through providers such as Google. Keep your email account information in a safe, easy to access place.
    • An application fee to rent a PBRA apartment will often be required.

    Complete the application.

    • Some PBRA applications are only one page, while others have multiple pages.
    • The application is usually multiple pages and will ask for:
      • Household information (including name, gender, date of birth, and Social Security Number, income and assets).
      • Previous housing history.
      • Employment and income information.
    • Complete the application per the property manager’s instructions.
      • It may be required for the entire application or specific sections to be filled out, or it will be rejected.
      • Some property managers will return the application and require you to complete the missing information, but others will terminate the application.

    Submit the application.

    • The application must be submitted per the housing office’s instructions, or it will be disqualified.
      • For example, if the application can only be submitted online, paper applications will be rejected. Or, if the application can only be submitted in person, mailed applications will be rejected.

    What Do I Do After Applying to a Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance Apartment?

    Wait for your application to be processed.

    • Once your application has been submitted, it usually takes a week or more to process.
      • This depends on the resources available to review applications.
        • Online applications tend to be processed more quickly than paper applications.
      • You can ask the property manager how long it usually takes to process applications.

    Confirm your waiting list status.

    • Most PBRA properties have a waiting list.
      • If there is not a waiting list, you will be informed of your eligibility after your application is processed.
      • If there is a waiting list, the property manager will usually confirm your status.
    • If placed on the waiting list, keep a record of it, along with any other relevant information (including housing office, login credentials, a confirmation number, and your position on the waiting list).
    • If there is no waiting list, skip to "Part 5. Move into offered unit."

    Estimate your wait time.

    • If you are placed on a waiting list, the wait time for PBRA apartments can be from many months to years long.
    • Contact the property manager and ask if they can estimate the current length of the waiting list.

    Stay in contact with the housing office.

    • Find out how to periodically check your waiting list status with an office.
      • Usually, this will either be done online, by phone, or at the office. Some offices are unable to provide your specific position on the waiting list, but will confirm if you are still on the waiting list.
    • If any of your application information changes (such as contact information, income, and household members), contact the housing office immediately.
      • In the case that the office sends a notice that does not get returned, or if application information is out of date, your application may be terminated from the waiting list. Contact the office you applied through to find out how to officially update application information.
    • Reply immediately to notices sent to you that require a response.
      • Housing offices periodically send notices to all persons on the waiting list, asking if they would like to remain on the waiting list. Applicants who do not respond within the given time frame will be terminated from the waiting list. This is known as purging, and is done to process applicants as efficiently as possible. Follow the specific instructions on the notice, or your application may be terminated.
    • Don’t forget that if you are applying online, housing offices will usually contact you using the email address you used to apply.
      • If you don’t receive the email or don’t have access when they send a correspondence, you may be removed from the waiting list. Always make sure you are using an email address you get mail at regularly and know you will have access to years from now.

    Move into offered unit.

    • After being approved for the Project-Based Section 8 program, you will be able to move into the unit the housing authority has approved for you.
      • You will not be able to move from this unit and keep the rental assistance.
    • PBRA tenants must be income certified each year.
      • If your income goes up, your Total Tenant Payment (TTP) may increase and if your income exceeds the income limits for the program, you may have to move.