The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federally funded housing assistance program governed by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program is designed to provide low income families, elderly and disabled persons to choose their own residence. Section 8 is the major federal program for housing assistance and is administered by local public housing authorities.
Section 8 Explained
Section 8 is the means by which very low income persons or families, disabled persons and the elderly can choose their own residence and receive government rental assistance. Program participants choose their own low-cost residence and the government makes payments directly to the landlord. There is no set list of housing from which the resident must choose and is not only limited to those already designated as public housing, but the landlord must agree to participate in the program. A participant does not necessarily need to move into a new apartment, but may also get their current landlord to participate or may even use their voucher to purchase a home.
Section 8 Requirement: Citizenship
Only U.S. citizens and certain categories on non-citizens who have eligible immigration status are able to participate in the program. Non-citizen students are ineligible for benefits. It is not necessary that all residents in the household be citizens, just the applicant. Your local Public Housing Authority (PHA) should be able to provide you with citizenship details. In any event, non-citizens will be required to show documentation of their immigration status and eligibility for citizenship.
Section 8 Requirement: Income
Eligible participants must show they have an income of less than fifty percent of the county’s median income. As the median income changes depending on the area, this percentage will be different for each PHA. HUD publishes median income levels by location, and your local PHA should also be able to provide you this information.
Section 8 Requirement: Application
Those who wish to participate in the program must apply and be chosen by their local PHA, which is typically done by lottery. Application requirements are extremely strict and typically require a very detailed application and supporting documentation. After submission of necessary information, the PHA will verify the information and place your name on a waiting list if they are unable to provide immediate assistance.
Typically, waiting lists are closed as much as two years in advance. It is a good idea to check dates in advance with your local PHA.
Section 8 vouchers can provide families in need with housing assistance. Receiving these benefits, though, is complicated and not always immediate. It can often take up to two years if not more to receive a voucher. It is wise to investigate this program and apply early to be considered as soon as possible.