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How To Qualify for a Section 8 Voucher

4 Basic Requirements for a Section 8 Voucher

An unexpected job loss, disability, or accident might leave you struggling to pay the expenses. If your emergency money runs out, you may find it difficult to pay rent. In such circumstance, you may be eligible to seek aid with housing under Section 8.

Section 8 is a government program operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The program gives qualified families and individuals monthly rental assistance.

But who qualifies under Section 8? If you need housing aid, it's useful to know who's qualified and how to apply.

Key Takeaways

Section 8 is a government program that offers vouchers to assist low-income families and individuals pay for housing.

Who qualifies for Section 8 is decided mostly by family size, income, and where you reside.

U.S. citizenship is essential to qualify for Section 8, however some non-citizens may also be eligible for housing vouchers via the program.

Contacting your local Public Housing Agency is suggested to find out who qualifies for Section 8 in your region.

What Is Section 8 Housing?

Section 8 housing is a government program that offers vouchers to assist low-income families and individuals pay for housing. Program participants may pick their own home, as long as it fits the standards of the program. That means residents who utilize Section 8 are not confined to subsidized housing buildings, but may seek for single-family houses, townhomes, or apartments.1

How Section 8 Vouchers Work 

Housing-choice vouchers are granted by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). The federal government pays money to the PHAs to provide the vouchers to those qualifying for Section 8.

If a person or family wins a housing-choice voucher, it gives what's practically a reduction on their rent. The PHA provides a housing subsidy to the landlord on behalf of the Section 8 beneficiary. The recipient then pays the difference between the actual rent owing and the amount provided under Section 8.

Note
Under certain situations, families may be approved by local PHA to use their voucher to buy a modest house instead of renting.

How Much Help Does Section 8 Provide?

Section 8 laws don't define a particular cash amount that individuals or families may receive to put toward rent payments. Instead, the PHA creates a payment requirement, which is a baseline amount required to rent a moderately-priced house in the local housing market.

A family receiving housing vouchers might opt to rent a residence that's above or below the payment criteria established by the PHA. In most circumstances, beneficiaries must pay 30% of their monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. In rare circumstances, this might climb to 40% if the rent is greater than the payment norm.

For example, assume that you reside in Los Angeles. The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles sets the payment level for a two-bedroom apartment at $2,248. If you qualified for the program with an income of $2,800 per month, then under the 30% guideline, you'd be liable for paying $840 toward rent and utilities.

In Philadelphia, the payment criterion is imposed based on fair market rentals per zip code. Standards are characterized as basic, conventional, midrange, opportunity, or high opportunity rentals, depending on where the properties are situated. So a two-bedroom property in a basic rent area would have a payment requirement of $1,012. Meanwhile, a two-bedroom property in a high potential rent neighborhood has a payment norm of $1,870.

Assume you're eligible for the program with an income of $1,900 a month. You pick a unit in the middle that has a payment standard of $1,287. You'd be liable for paying $570 toward rent and utilities for the flat.

Note
Baseline payment requirements don't govern what a landlord may charge for rent.

Why Section 8 Exists

The Section 8 program serves to assist low-income families and individuals obtain affordable homes. The program was created by Congress in 1974 and implemented by HUD to offer housing assistance for qualifying tenants. Section 8 was mostly designed to be a reaction to the rising amount of money families had to commit to paying for rental housing.

Section 8 Voucher Requirements

Who qualifies for Section 8? The solution is not straightforward. It relies on your capacity to achieve four particular conditions as defined by HUD.

Income Limits

People who apply for Section 8 are subject to income limitations, which are established periodically by HUD. These income limitations are determined as a percentage of the median income for specific sections of the nation. There are three income-limit tiers:

  • Extremely low income: 30% of the area's median income level
  • Very low income: 50% of the area's median income level
  • Moderately low income: 80% of the area's median income level

These income restrictions take into consideration where you reside as well as the number of people in your family. Using Los Angeles as an example again, the 2021 restrictions for a four-person home are as follows:

  • Extremely low income: $35,450
  • Very low income: $59,100
  • Moderately poor income: $94,600

HUD has an online inquiry tool that you may use to verify income limitations in your location.

Note
Priority for Section 8 housing vouchers is normally given to persons who are in the severely low income limitations.

Citizenship Status Section 8 eligibility is restricted to U.S. citizens and non-citizens who qualify for specified immigration categories. When you apply for Section 8, you and every individual in your home must sign a certification form confirming that you are:

  • A U.S. citizen, OR
  • An eligible alien, OR
  • Choosing not to declare eligible status

A declaration is adequate to fulfill HUD criteria for proving citizenship. However, your PHA might ask for extra paperwork, including:

  • U.S. passport(s)
  • Resident alien card(s)
  • Registration card(s)
  • Social Security card(s)

Eligible immigrants may also be requested to submit a statement attesting to their immigration statuses, produce documentation from the Immigration and Naturalization Service verifying their statuses, or sign a form granting the PHA approval to use such information.

Note
Families that comprise both citizens and ineligible non-citizens may still apply for Section 8, but support will be dependent on the number of eligible members in the home.

Family Status Section 8 candidates also have to fit HUD's definition of a family. A family, for HUD, is a person or group of people that fits any of these conditions:

  • Have children
  • Have one family member that's 62 or older
  • Have one family member who is disabled Has been relocated from their home for an eligible cause
  • Lived with persons getting Section 8 but lives alone after other family members have moved away

Single persons may qualify for Section 8, and you don't need to have children to be eligible.

Eviction History

Families or individuals normally must have favorable rental records to be accepted for Section 8. HUD disqualifies anyone from applying who have been evicted from a property for drug-related or criminal activities. You might also be disqualified if you've ever been convicted of making methamphetamine in a subsidized housing property.

Note
You might also be denied Section 8 aid if you breach any qualifying standards imposed by your PHA.

How To Apply

To apply for Section 8 housing-choice vouchers, you'll need to contact your local Public Housing Agency. Your PHA can inform you whether the program is presently taking new applications and what documentation you'll need to apply. Depending on where you reside, you may be able to apply online, in person, or by mail.

Complete the Application

You'll need to fill out the housing-choice voucher application provided by your PHA. The information needed may vary, however you may be asked for any or all of the following:

  • Your name and the names of all persons living in your home
  • Name and address information for the head of household
  • Dates of birth, Social Security numbers, locations of birth, and genders of all persons living in the home
  • Your desired bedroom size
  • Your veteran or military status
  • Your current homelessness status
  • Criminal history
  • Residency status Race, ethnicity, and native language
  • Disability status
  • Names of former landlords
  • Current employer's name and contact information

It's vital to be as comprehensive and correct as possible while completing the application, whether you're submitting it online, in person or by mail. Omitting information or submitting false information might result in your application being declined.

Submit Supporting Documents

Once you support your application, your PHA may ask for supporting documents. Some of the things you may be asked for may include:

  • Copies of government-issued IDs for all members of the family
  • Proof of citizenship (i.e., passports, birth certificates, etc.)
  • Bank account statements
  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Copies of your existing rental agreement

Responding to any requests for information is vital for having your application handled as promptly as possible.

Join the Waiting List

If you're accepted for Section 8, you'll most likely be put to a waiting list. This waiting list is a pool of all people and families who have been authorized for housing-choice vouchers. Once a house becomes available to rent, you may be removed off the waiting list and begin receiving voucher benefits.

A PHA might shut its waiting list to new applicants if there aren't enough resources to go around to provide housing benefits. And being on the waiting list doesn't ensure you'll be able to find accommodation immediately soon. In certain situations, it might take years for a Section 8 applicant to reach to the top of the pool.

Note
Some states with closed Section 8 waiting lists will hold lottery draws, which are available to applicants already on the list.

The Bottom Line

Section 8 housing may help make housing more affordable for qualifying families and individuals. In terms of who qualifies for Section 8, the usual response is persons with low incomes. But the financial constraints you're subject to and your ability to seek aid might be impacted by where you reside or how many people live with you.

If you need aid with housing, Section 8 is only one option, and it might take awhile to be approved. You may also contact local Public Housing Agency about alternative options for receiving rental help if you don't qualify for a housing-choice voucher.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I acquire Section 8 housing immediately?

You may call your local Public Housing Agency to inquire about applying for emergency housing help. The Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) gives vouchers to local PHAs to support families that are homeless; at high risk of becoming homeless; or who are leaving a situation involving domestic abuse, dating violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, or stalking.

How can I discover what number I am on the Section 8 waiting list?

You may find what number you are on the Section 8 waiting list by contacting the number supplied by your Public Housing Agency. You may also be able to go online to verify your waiting list status or change information about your application.

What happens to my Section 8 when my kid becomes 18?

If you're getting Section 8 help and your kid reaches 18, it may change your qualifying benefits. Whether it does might depend on whether the kid continues to live with you or starts contributing to the family income. Talking to your Public Housing Agency will help you identify what income or household information you may need to update to evaluate your continuing eligibility for Section 8.

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