How To Find A Section 8 Apartment

Photo of a landlord handing their new tenant the keys to their new rental home. Photo by Adobe Stock.

After getting approved for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, it’s natural to feel the drive to start searching for a new home immediately. Especially with a time limit to use the voucher, starting as soon as possible may even feel necessary.

However, there are guidelines on where a Section 8 voucher can, and cannot be used. And these rules can vary in different areas of the country.

So, knowing which types of rentals accept vouchers will help save time and frustration during your housing search.

Here’s the details on how to find a Section 8 apartment or house:

  1. Look for a rental home that is owned by a private landlord, or a certain type of affordable housing property.

    A Section 8 voucher can be used to rent homes that are owned by a private landlord or property manager. This is the main draw of the Housing Choice Voucher program, as participants can choose their place of residence.

    The search for a privately-owned home, however, can be difficult in some parts of the country. Private landlords and property managers in many areas can refuse tenants who have a Section 8 voucher. 

    In response, many states and local governments have passed laws to protect renters with a Housing Choice Voucher. Find out which areas have protections for Section 8 renters here.

    Vouchers will also be accepted at certain affordable housing properties. There are some housing programs that charge tenants a flat, affordable monthly rent. The monthly rent is not income-based like a Section 8 voucher. These flat rate affordable housing rentals must accept vouchers. 

    This applies to the following affordable housing programs:

    • Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)
    • HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME)
    • Section 515 Rural Rental Housing
    Note: Some of these rentals may already have another housing program stacked onto it that makes the rent income-based. These rentals are not eligible.

    Ineligible residences for Section 8 vouchers

    A Housing Choice Voucher cannot be used in any of the following residences:

    • College or other school dormitories.
    • Penal, reformatory, medical, mental, or similar rooms in a public or private institution.
    • Affordable housing properties that already provide income-based rent, including:
    • Public or Indian Housing
    • Section Project-Based Rental Assistance
    • Section 8 Project-Based Voucher
    • USDA Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance
    • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
    • Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities
    • Any other federal, state or local housing program that offers income-based rent.

    With a goal in mind for a type of home, there are many different ways to find an available rental.

  2. Search for available rentals online or locally.

    To begin your search for a Section 8 apartment or home, first check if the housing authority has a list of participating landlords.

    Not every agency has a list like this, but it it can help to greatly reduce the time it takes to find a unit.

    If there is no list of landlords available, search for available rental units locally. Rentals can be found online, and through local means like newspapers or organizations that help low-income households.

    While looking for available rentals, keep the search within the housing authority’s service area. Commonly known as the jurisdiction, this is the only area where the agency can provide rental assistance. Any rental located outside of the housing authority’s jurisdiction will be denied.Photo of a newspaper's classifieds page showing apartment listings for rent. Photo by Adobe Stock.

  3. Submit an application for tenancy.

    Once an available rental has been found, an application must be submitted to the landlord or property manager in most cases.

    The amount of household information required in the application will vary by each landlord. An application fee may be required as well. Landlords, and even housing authorities are allowed to charge their own application fee to become a tenant.

    In many cases, the landlord will also do a credit and criminal background check.

    When a landlord approves your application for tenancy, there’s just one more requirement before moving in.Close up photo of a paper rental application being filled out by a person using a pen. Photo by Adobe Stock.

  4. Have the housing authority inspect the home.

    After getting approved by a landlord, report this back to the housing authority as soon as possible to get it inspected.

    Any apartment or house that accepts Housing Choice Vouchers must pass HUD’s health and safety inspection. The inspection checks for standards like heat, water, and structural damage.

    Following the housing authority’s approval of the unit, the household can now move in.Photo of an inspector holding a clipboard and squatting next to the exterior wall of a house to inspect it. Photo by Adobe Stock.

  5. Move in.

    Now that everything is approved, it’s time to finally move into your new home!

    During the move-in process, households have to cover their own moving expenses. However, some local organizations may have programs that assist renters in need. Keep this in mind, especially when looking for housing away from your current residence.

    Now, the household will have to pay only a portion of their monthly income for rent.

    About once a year, the housing authority will re-examine the household’s income for continued eligibility. The voucher will stay with the household as long as everyone is still qualified.Photo of a husband, wife, and daughter in a new barren apartment doing various tasks with cardboard boxes stacked on the floor. Photo by Adobe Stock.