The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federally funded assistance program that ensures that low-income families and households have access to safe, sanitary and decent housing.
To receive housing benefits, families and households must meet several eligibility requirements, including income, citizenship and immigration status and family composition qualifications.
By learning more about the housing voucher program, you will gain a better understanding of whether or not your household or family may qualify for benefits as well as what to expect when submitting an application.
Depending on funding within your area, eligible beneficiaries may receive assistance right away or be placed upon a waiting list for when funds become available.
What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a welfare-based program that is financed by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered on the local level by Public Housing Agencies (PHA).
Section 8 is a program designed to assist qualifying families and households with low incomes in rising from poverty as well as ensuring access to affordable, decent, safe and sanitary housing.
If approved for the program, beneficiaries live within an approved apartment, townhouse or home. The PHA provides monetary assistance towards rental costs directly to the landlord on behalf of the participating family or household and, thus reduces the amount of housing costs that the family or household would be expected to pay each month.
Find Resources Related to Reduced Housing Costs
Being eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher program allows you have subsidized housing, but the government offers other types of financial assistance. If you are looking to reduce other bills, such as your heating bill or cellphone bill, review the list of assistance programs below.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Lifeline Subsidized Phone and Internet Services
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Learn How to Qualify for Section 8 Housing
In order to qualify for Section 8 benefits, your household must meet certain eligibility requirements. These requirements include citizenship and immigration status, income and categorical qualifications.
Vouchers from the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program can only be offered to United States citizens and lawful residents that have qualifying immigration status.
To qualify for Section 8 benefits, your family or household must meet income guidelines that are determined by the median income within a county or metropolitan area for your household or family size.
Generally, vouchers are only provided to households with an income that does not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the area in which the family will live within.
However, the law requires that the HCV program provide at least 75 percent of the available vouchers to households that have an income level that does not exceed 30 percent of an area’s median income.
Benefits can only be provided to households that are either considered to be a family, have at least one senior citizen who is at least 62 years of age residing within the home or have at least one disabled person living within the home.
In order to be considered a family, there must be at least one child who is younger than 18 years of age residing within the household.
In addition to these three primary eligibility requirements, the PHA will also examine and consider your household’s rental and eviction history.
To determine your household’s eligibility, your local Public Housing Agency will verify the information that you provide the agency through other local agencies, your financial institution and your employer.
If you are eligible to receive benefits, the information gathered by the PHA will also be used to determine your Section 8 benefit amount.
Learn About the Benefits of the HCV Program
The Housing Choice Voucher program provides monthly monetary housing assistance that is directly paid to the landlord on the family or household’s behalf. This reduces the amount of money that the family must pay to retain housing.
While receiving Section 8 benefits, the participating family is only responsible for the difference between their rent and the amount that is paid by their local PHA.
In addition to monetary housing benefits, participants are eligible for other assistance programs that can aid the household in reaching financial and career goals.
Find Out How to Apply for Section 8 Housing
If you are in need of housing assistance, it is important to apply with your local Public Housing Agency right away as program funding is limited. In most cases, you will be required to complete an interview at your local PHA office.
In addition to providing information about yourself and each of your household members, you must provide the PHA with any documentation that is necessary to complete your application, including proof of income for all household members.
If you are approved to receive benefits from the housing voucher program, you will either be eligible to receive assistance immediately or you will be placed on a waiting list depending on availability.
Additionally, your local PHA can inform you of any local or state programs that you may be able to qualify to receive additional assistance.
Understanding Section 8 Waiting Lists and Local Preferences
The demand for housing assistance is high and Section 8 waiting lists are notoriously long. Therefore, it is important to know that, should you be placed upon a waiting list, you will not begin to receive benefits until more benefits become available.
You will be contacted by the PHA once benefits are available, so long as your household is still eligible to receive Section 8 housing assistance.
It is also worth knowing that some counties and metropolitan areas may have longer waiting lists than others. For that reason, you are encouraged to contact the PHA for each community that you would be living to live within.
Doing so may be able to expedite the amount of time your family must wait before receiving benefits.
In many areas, Public Housing Agencies have local preferences when selecting families and households from the waiting list when benefits are available.
For example, a Public Housing Agency may provide preference to a family on the waiting list who is:
- Currently homeless or living in substandard housing.
- Currently paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent.
- Involuntarily displaced.
Learn How to Maintain Your Qualifications for Section 8
If your family is approved to receive benefits through Section 8, you must continue to meet eligibility requirements while receiving assistance.
Additionally, you will be required to report any changes to your local PHA, such as changes in your family composition or household size.
For example, if you wish to add another household member to an existing household, your PHA and landlord must both approve the change beforehand. Otherwise, you will be in violation of the HCV program and you could potentially lose your benefits.