What is Section 8 Housing?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), also known as 'Section 8', is a federal program that provides financial assistance to those who qualify. The program helps low-income families and individuals, the elderly, and persons with disabilities by paying a portion of monthly rents due to landlords of homes and apartments.
How It Works
A person selected to participate in HCVP is issued a rental voucher and then has 120 days to locate a housing unit suitable to the family's needs and desires in the private rental market (the family also has the option to stay in their current location if the unit meets the requirements).
Once the family selects a unit, a local housing agency must inspect the unit before initial leasing (and at least annually thereafter) to ensure that the unit meets HUD’s housing quality standards (HQS). The housing agency will then pay a rental subsidy each month to the landlord or property owner on behalf of the family that was issued a Section 8 Voucher.
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) works with multiple regional housing agencies as well as local agencies to administer these Section 8/HCVP subsidies.
Household gross income determines eligibility for the program. Seventy-five percent of Section 8 vouchers issued must be awarded to families whose overall income is not more than 30% of the median income in the area in which they live. Overall, household income typically must be less than 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area. These parameters are set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Local agencies can provide further details regarding eligibility.
To file an application, you must first contact a DHCD local or regional administering agency. Or you can download a hard copy of the application from your state’s DHCD page and then submit it to one of the regional agencies. Keep in mind that demand for housing assistance often exceeds the available resources which can result in a waiting list, so it’s important to plan ahead.
More About Section 8
Other details about Section 8 housing you should be aware are following.
First, Section 8 tenants are not allowed to pay more the 30% of their income toward rent. Any deficiency will be covered by the housing agency and paid directly to the landlord or property owner. The amount of rent that can be covered, however, is determined by the fair market rental values.
Second, there is no restriction governing how long a family/individual can participate in the Section 8 Housing Program.
Third, both landlord and tenant benefit from the Section 8 program. By choosing to participate in the Section 8 Housing program, landlords must meet housing quality standards (HQS) as dictated by HUD. This ensures a safe and clean living environment for the tenant.
However, as a Section 8 beneficiary you will have to adhere to certain guidelines in order to retain your monthly assistance. If both tenant and landlord abide by the Section 8 restrictions, then the tenant has a nice, affordable place to live, and the landlord gets paid regularly and on time. It is in the interest of all parties to comply with the Section 8 guidelines.
As a final note, participants are allowed to use 1 of 2 different housing vouchers: A ‘project’ voucher, or a ‘tenant’ voucher.
A ‘project’ voucher is good for a particular apartment complex, whereas a ‘tenant’ voucher will allow a Section 8 applicant to live in any rental unit of choice. Also, a ‘tenant’ voucher allows the applicant to live anywhere in the United State where a Section 8 housing is administered.