What is Section 8?

What is Section 8?

The Housing Choice Vouchers Program, also known as Section 8, provides assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income families to rent housing anywhere, not just in subsidized housing projects. The federal assistance program works as a rental subsidy that allows families to pay a reasonable amount of their income toward rent. Generally, families will pay no more than 40 percent of their adjusted monthly income toward their rent share. The rental subsidy will cover the rest. Housing Choice Vouchers can be used in every major market in the United States and are administered locally by municipal public housing agencies (PHAs).

How does it work?

Interested families, who believe they are eligible, submit applications to the Housing Choice Voucher Program through public housing agencies (PHAs). Administering PHAs then determine whether a family is eligible. If a family is deemed eligible, they are then granted a Section 8 voucher. Families then have a limited amount of time to find a suitable rental unit that must be inspected and approved by the PHA. The tenants, landlord and PHA will enter a contractual agreement by which the PHA will pay the landlord the amount equal to the difference between 30 percent of the tenant's adjusted income (or 10 percent of the gross income or the portion of welfare assistance designated for housing) and the PHA-determined payment standard for the area. The monthly rental rate must be reasonable compared with similar unassisted units or the “fair market rent” (FMR)  in the general market. Tenants may choose a home with a higher rent than the FMR, in which case they would pay the landlord the difference themselves, or they may choose a lower cost rental and keep the difference.

How do I apply for Section 8?

To apply, create a free account on AffordableHousing.com, and then search for open Waiting lists. Any Waiting list operated through our website will allow you to apply directly online. For other open Waiting lists listed on our website, you may need to contact the housing provider directly to apply. Once you fill out an application on AffordableHousing.com, you can use that same application to apply to other open Waiting lists.

Who is eligible?

Eligibility for a Housing Choice Voucher is determined by local PHAs based on a family’s total annual gross income and family size. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, and a United States citizen or a noncitizen who has eligible immigration status. 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.” 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, or Guam; victim or relative of a victim of trafficking.

In general, a qualifying applicant’s income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which they reside. By law, PHAs must provide 75 percent of its vouchers to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the median income for the area. The PHA serving your community [link to HA search engine on AH.com] can provide you with the income limits for your area and family size.

If the PHA determines that you are eligible, you will be added to a waiting list. Waiting lists vary in length and wait-time depending on local market conditions. PHAs establish their own preferences (e.g. veterans, victims of domestic violence) for selecting applicants from its waiting list, and may close the list when they have more families on the list than they can assist in the near future.

What if a family moves? Do they lose their Section 8 voucher?

Because a family's housing needs adjust over time with changes in family size, job locations and other reasons, the program is designed to allow families to move without the loss of rental assistance. The family must notify the PHA ahead of time, terminate its existing lease within the lease provisions, and find acceptable alternate housing. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40 percent of its adjusted monthly income for rent.

New voucher recipients may select a unit anywhere in the United States, as long as the family lived in the jurisdiction of the PHA issuing the voucher when the family applied for assistance. Families that plan to move to another PHA's jurisdiction must consult with the PHA that currently administers their voucher to verify the moving procedures.

Tenant's Obligations under Section 8

Families participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program are responsible for finding suitable housing and for providing the administering PHA with the income and family information needed to certify program eligibility. This information must be provided at least on an annual basis in order to maintain eligibility. When a voucher family selects a residence and it is approved for leasing under the program by the PHA, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. Tenants are expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay their security deposit, pay their share of the rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition, and notify the PHA of any changes in income or family composition. Families participating in the program are also responsible for repairing any damage that they cause to the unit and must allow the PHA to inspect the unit.

Landlord's Obligations under Section 8

Landlords accepting a Section 8 tenant must first submit a Request for Tenancy Approval to the local PHA, and then schedule a housing quality inspection. The inspection will determine if the unit meets minimum housing standards set by HUD and the local PHA. Units will need to pass yearly inspections, usually when the tenant’s lease is up for renewal. Although a portion of the tenant’s rent will be paid for by the Housing Voucher, landlords are responsible for collecting security deposits and the tenant’s portion of monthly rent. Landlords are expected to follow statewide landlord-tenant law, and provide the services agreed to as part of the lease with the tenant and the contract signed with the PHA. Notification of rent increases must also be submitted by landlords to local PHAs for approval.

PHA's Obligations under Section 8

The Public Housing Authority (PHA) is responsible for determining whether or not the client is eligible to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Once eligibility is established, the PHA is responsible for processing the certification and recertification application, inspecting the unit, approving the lease and executing the Housing Assistance Payment Contract. The Housing Authority is also responsible for determining the amount of assistance to be provided and for making payments to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. Finally, the Housing Authority is responsible for monitoring the program and making certain everyone involved is in compliance with Federal, State and Local regulations.

HUD's Obligations under Section 8

HUD provides funds to allow PHAs to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the participating families. The agency monitors the PHA’s administration of the program to ensure that the rules and regulations are properly followed.