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

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: 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.

    Step 3: Restrictions and 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.


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

    Step 4: 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.