; Section 8 Vouchers: The Complete Guide

What is Section 8?

Section 8 is a federal rental assistance program designed to aid low-income renters in the U.S. It allows eligible tenants to pay a reduced portion of their monthly rent, while the local Public Housing Agency (PHA) covers the remaining amount to the landlord. The program empowers recipients to select their preferred private landlords, offering them greater flexibility and housing options.

How do Section 8 vouchers work?

Section 8 vouchers function by providing financial assistance to eligible households in the form of rental subsidies. The PHA manages the program and maintains waiting lists for applicants. Due to the high demand for vouchers, openings on these lists are infrequent. Successful applicants receive vouchers and are responsible for finding suitable housing that accepts Section 8 assistance. Once approved, the housing authority will pay a portion of the rent directly to the landlord.

Are there other types of Housing Vouchers?

There are many different types of Section 8 vouchers available to assist eligible low-income individuals and families with their housing needs. Each type of voucher has its own set of eligibility criteria and features. The main types of Section 8 vouchers include:

  • Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV): Provides eligible participants with a voucher for private rental housing with the government subsidizing a portion of the rent.
  • Project-Based Vouchers (PBV): Rental assistance tied to a specific rental property; tenants may request a Housing Choice Voucher under certain conditions.
  • Moving To Work (MTW) Vouchers: Designed to test innovative strategies for self-sufficiency and increased housing choices among participants.
  • Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Vouchers: Reserved for homeless U.S. military veterans eligible for VA healthcare, combining rental assistance with case management.
  • Mainstream Vouchers: Aids non-elderly persons with disabilities in finding safe and affordable housing in the private market.
  • Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) Vouchers: Similar to Mainstream but requires the Head of Household to be non-elderly with disabilities.
  • Family Unification Program (FUP) Vouchers: Prevents family separation or reunifies families whose housing situation led to child welfare involvement.
  • Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) Vouchers: Assists youths aging out of foster care who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Homeownership Vouchers: Helps eligible low-income families transition from renting to owning their own homes.
  • Stability Vouchers: Provides assistance to households facing homelessness, domestic violence survivors, and veterans in need.
  • Tenant Protection Vouchers: Assists residents facing displacement due to changes in HUD properties.
  • Enhanced Vouchers: Continues rental assistance for tenants when affordable housing contracts expire or properties are demolished.
  • Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV): Addresses urgent housing needs for individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • HOPE VI Vouchers: Specific vouchers related to the HOPE VI program, aimed at revitalizing public housing.

How do I qualify for a Section 8 voucher?

To be eligible for a Section 8 voucher, the household must meet specific criteria set by HUD. The primary conditions include being at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, or an eligible immigrant. Additionally, the household's income should be below the designated income limits, and all members must pass a basic background check. Find a Public Housing Authority near you to understand the specific eligibility requirements for participating in the Section 8 Housing Choice voucher program.

Are there any common misconceptions about Section 8?

Yes, there are some common misconceptions about Section 8. One such belief is that having a family or children is a requirement, but the program is open to single persons and adult-only households. Another misconception is that there is a minimum income requirement, while in reality, households can qualify for a voucher even with no income.

Many misconceptions about Section 8 rise out of limited awarness, social concern, and economic uncertainty. Affordable Housing Online reports on waiting lists, current events, and housing policy to help demistify the program so that more low-income households can find the assistance they need.

How do I apply for a Section 8 voucher?

To apply for a Section 8 voucher, you must first find an open waiting list with a local Public Housing Agency. Complete the application with all the required household information and submit it according to the agency's guidelines. If you are placed on the waiting list, the agency will send confirmation. After reaching the top of the waiting list, you will be required to attend an eligibility interview. In case of denial, there may be an option for an informal review.

How do I find a Section 8 apartment?

Finding a suitable Section 8 apartment involves seeking privately owned rentals or affordable housing residences without subsidized rent. You can ask the housing authority for a list of participating landlords or search for available rental advertisements online or locally. Follow Affordable Housing Online's in-depth guide on How Find A Home With A Housing Choice Voucher

What happens after I find a Section 8 apartment?

Once you find a Section 8 apartment and get approved, you can move in and start paying only a portion of your monthly income for rent. It's crucial to keep your household's income information up to date, as the housing authority will re-examine it annually for continued eligibility.

How do I check my status on a Section 8 waiting list?

To check your status on a waiting list for housing, you'll need to follow a few steps depending on the housing office's specific procedures. Here's a general guide to help you navigate the process:

Safety: Be careful! Some websites do not act in good faith, and may try to charge you a fee or collect your personal information for malicious purposes. Follow our Housing Scam Prevention Guide to keep yourself secure in your housing search.

Contact the Housing Office: Start by reaching out to the housing office or apartment community where you applied for assistance. Some housing offices may be able to confirm whether you are currently on the waiting list. They can verify whether your application has been received and processed. You can do this by phone or in person during their business hours. Keep in mind that each office may have different ways of handling waiting list inquiries.

Specific Position on the Waiting List: In some cases, the housing office might not disclose your specific position on the waiting list. This can be due to privacy or administrative reasons. If they don't provide your exact rank, don't be discouraged, as this is a common practice in many places.

Ask about Application Dates: If they cannot reveal your position, the representative might be able to inform you about the date from which they are currently pulling applications from the waiting list. This can give you an idea of where you stand relative to other applicants.

Use Official Online Services: Some housing providers may use online services to manage their waiting lists. If this applies to the housing office you're dealing with, they might direct you to an official online tool to modify and check the status of your application.

Beware of Scams: Be cautious when accessing online tools and avoid providing sensitive information to unofficial or suspicious websites. Housing scams are unfortunately common, so always use official channels recommended by the housing authority.

Remember that the process may vary depending on the specific housing office's policies, so be patient and follow their instructions diligently.

Can I get a voucher immediately? Is there an emergency program?

No, in most situations, a voucher applicant will not receive assistance before households above them on the waiting list. The only way to receive housing choice voucher assistance is through a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) managed by the Public Housing Agency.

In situations of chronic homelessness or natural disasters, immediate emergency assistance may be available through HUD or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Is HUD the same thing as Section 8?

No, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Section 8 HCV program are not the same. HUD is a government agency responsible for policies and programs related to the nation’s housing, while Section 8 is a low-income housing program operated by HUD that provides rental assistance to eligible renters.

Can a Section 8 voucher be transferred to another person?

No, Section 8 vouchers cannot be transferred to another person in most cases. The voucher is issued to a specific household, and is non-transferable to other households. However, there are some exceptions, such as if the Head of Household dies. For guidance on emergency situations, contact the managing housing authority.

Does a Section 8 voucher pay for utilities?

The Section 8 HCV program does not directly pay utilities. Instead, tenants who receive Section 8 assistance may be eligible for a utility allowance, which is a reimbursement provided to help cover the cost of utilities. The utility allowance is determined by the Public Housing Authority based on average utility costs in the area and is deducted from the total rent payment. This reimbursement helps reduce the out-of-pocket expenses tenants have to pay for utilities.

Does the Section 8 program affect your credit score?

No, participation in the Section 8 HCV program does not directly affect your credit score. Section 8 is a housing assistance program that provides rental subsidies to eligible low-income individuals and families. It is not a credit-based program, and therefore, it does not impact your credit score.

Do I have to report unemployment income for Section 8 assistance?

Yes, you are required to report changes in income, including unemployment, to the Section 8 HCV program. The program's eligibility is based on your household's income, and any changes can affect your rental assistance amount. It is essential to inform your Public Housing Authority (PHA) promptly about any income changes to ensure accurate determination of your eligibility and rental assistance.

Should I start looking for a Section 8 unit once I’m on the waiting list?

No, the wait time on most Section 8 HCV waiting lists can be months or even years long. So, apartments and homes that are available when you’re placed on the waiting list likely will not be available when you are offered a voucher.

Can I get a Section 8 voucher sooner if I have housing already?

In some cases, yes, some housing authorities have a preference for applicants who are already leasing a unit that accepts Section 8 vouchers. This preference, called “Lease In Place,” allows eligible applicants to get priority placement on the waiting list. However, very few housing authorities have a preference for Lease In Place applicants, so this preference is not commonly found on waiting list applications.

If I am living in a Section 8 home, can I have a separate roommate?

No, the entire household who is living in the house or apartment must be eligible for Section 8 HCV rental assistance. If someone is living in the home without qualifying for the Section 8 program, everyone else living there risks losing the voucher.

If I move away from my home, can I continue to get Section 8 assistance?

Renters who move away from a home that is assisted by a Section 8 voucher must apply for a new voucher to get rental assistance in their new area. Coverage cannot be extended to both homes.

Is there a limit to how much a landlord can raise your Section 8 rent?

Yes, there is a limit to how much a landlord can raise your rent under the Section 8 HCV program. The allowable increase is subject to specific rules and regulations set by the local housing authority. Landlords cannot raise the rent without approval, and any increases are typically limited to a certain percentage to protect tenants from excessive burdens.

How much does a Section 8 tenant pay?

The maximum amount that Section 8 tenants will pay is determined by their income and the specific housing authority's policies. In most cases, tenants will pay a percentage of their income towards rent, typically around 30% of their adjusted income. The remaining portion of the rent is covered by the Section 8 voucher, up to a payment standard set by the housing authority for the area in which the tenant resides.

What is a Section 8 briefing?

A Section 8 briefing is an informational session conducted by the housing authority for individuals or families who have been approved to receive Section 8 HCV housing assistance. During the briefing, participants are provided with important details about the program, their rights and responsibilities as tenants, how the voucher program works, and how to find and secure housing that meets the program's requirements. It is a crucial step in the process of obtaining and understanding the benefits of Section 8 assistance.

What are the Section 8 bedroom requirements?

The Section 8 HCV bedroom requirements specify that each adult household member should have a separate bedroom, and the number of bedrooms is determined by the family size and composition. Generally, a separate bedroom is allocated for each married or cohabiting couple, each adult (18 years or older) of the opposite sex, each pair of children under 18 of the same sex, and any additional children.

Will the Section 8 program ever go away?

It is unlikely that the government will stop funding the Section 8 HCV rental assistance program. This program has existed since 1974, and remains one of the most important government housing programs in America

Will Section 8 vouchers pay all of my rent?

For most Section 8 HCV tenants, the housing authority will cover only a portion of your rent, which is typically about 30% of your adjusted income. If you have no income, you may still qualify for Section 8 housing assistance, but it's essential to understand the specific requirements for your household.

Can my boyfriend or girlfriend live with me while on the Section 8 program?

In most cases, your boyfriend or girlfriend can live with you while you are on the Section 8 HCV program. The program allows for family members or individuals who are not legally married but have a familial relationship to be included in the household. However, it's essential to inform your local housing authority about any changes in household composition and comply with their guidelines regarding reporting and verification of household members.