Your Guide to Section 8 Housing

What is Section 8 housing?” is a question that low-income American families seeking affordable housing options may ask themselves this at some point in their search. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a government assistance program that is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Before getting into the details of the Section 8 application process, you must learn about what the Section 8 program is about. Applicants who are eligible will receive housing vouchers. These vouchers can contribute to the monthly rental payments or mortgage payment of the applicant. If you are interested in Section 8 because you are in economic restraints when it comes to housing costs, then continue reading the sections below.

Learn About Qualifications for Section 8 Applicants

The first step for a United States resident who wants to apply for Section 8 is to review the eligibility requirements. The public housing agencies, also known as PHA, will determine the eligibility of the applicant within the area. The most important Section 8 housing application requirement is the income requirement. Residents should consider obtaining the application if they meet the base income requirements. 

In order to determine income eligibility, your local PHA will review your total annual gross income and family size. However, this determination is only for U.S. citizens. If you are a non-citizen, then you can still apply for housing assistance so long as you have the proper immigration status in the country. When PHAs consider your eligibility, they will review the following:

  • If your household income will not exceed 50 percent of the average income within the area you reside in
  • Because the PHA determines the median income level in the area, the median level will vary by location
  • If you would like to access the income limits for their area, then you can contact the local PHA regarding that information

If you do not know whether you should fill out the Section 8 application online, then you can contact your PHA for assistance. Besides incomes, your local PHA will also review your family composition and household assets throughout the determination process.

Learn the Steps for the Section 8 Application 

If you are a prospective applicant wondering if you can fill out a Section 8 online application free, then the response will vary depending on your neighborhood. Some PHAs can process the Section 8 application forms online, but there are those that do not. For PHAs that do not offer Section 8 applications online, you may request a printed form or call them for application assistance over the phone.

When you start to apply for Section 8 housing in your state and neighborhood, you must come prepared with the right information, which includes:

  • Full names of every household member.
  • Dates of birth of all household members.
  • The nine-digit Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of each member.
  • Medical Statuses if there are household members who are disabled, elderly or pregnant.
  • Your relationships to each household member.

Learn About Section 8 Waiting Lists

You may be wondering what is a Section 8 housing waiting list if you have been found eligible but placed on a waiting list. The waiting list is created by your local PHA, as they set who will receive priority. It is possible to receive immediate assistance but it is not always available. Typically, as an eligible applicant, you will have to wait until your local PHA reaches your name to contact you for your voucher.

Unfortunately, after your Section 8 housing application has been filed, being placed on a waiting list is common. The excessive demand for housing assistance funds will often surpass the amount of financial support available. The HUD resolves this by creating a waiting list and, thus, long waiting periods are common.

The HUD and the PHA do provide priority to certain people on the waiting list if they qualify. The factors that can make a household a priority on the waiting list are:

  • If a household is homeless without access to safe housing.
  • If more than 50 percent of a household’s income goes towards rental expenses.
  • If a household has been involuntarily displaced.

If households that apply for Section 8 meet these criteria, then they are able to move up the list and become a priority for its local PHA. Housing preferences and needs can vary from location to location and each local PHA has its distinct rules.

How Housing Vouchers Work for Section 8 Applicants

When your local PHA has processed and accepted your Section 8 application form, they will contact you so you may receive your housing voucher. Now, it is time to find the right home for your household. However, it is important to make an informed decision on the home you choose before signing your new lease. While you look for housing because of your accepted Section 8 application, it is important to remember:

  • The home you have selected must HUD’s safety and health requirements.
  • Your local PHA must inspect and confirm the home you selected is acceptable.
  • Your local PHA must examine that the rental payments requested by your landlord are reasonable.

Before signing the lease to your new home, you must trust that your local PHA will find the fair market value of your home.

How to Use Section 8 Vouchers During Relocation

If you have been an accepted applicant for Section 8 and are deciding to relocate, then you may be wondering if you can still use your housing voucher for your new home. It is possible to continue using your Section 8 voucher for a new home. The only requirement is to tell your local PHA of this relocation. This involves terminating your lease under the proper circumstances and finding new housing that can be approved by the PHA.

One important detail to remember is that, under the terms of your accepted Section 8 application, you must remain in one home for a minimum of 12 months. This holds true for new voucher holders. Furthermore, choosing to relocate outside of your current PHA’s jurisdiction after 12 months requires you to notify them.