Types of housing available through this program include apartments, townhomes and single-family homes. While many of these properties are located within subsidized housing projects, not all of them are.
In any case, you can find eligible properties and get a Section 8 voucher through the Public Housing Agency (PHA) in your community. Below, learn more about getting help paying your rent through the Housing Choice Voucher program.
Guidelines for Section 8
In order to get a Section 8 voucher, there are a few basic requirements to meet. Before learning about the eligibility requirements, though, it helps to understand that the Housing Choice Voucher program is run at the local level by PHAs. Therefore, the some of the eligibility criteria will vary from one area to the next.
For example, income is one factor that will vary based on where you live. Generally speaking, your household income cannot exceed 50 percent of the median income in your area. Because income levels can vary significantly from one area of the country to the next, your Section 8 eligibility is based on the average income in your own county or metropolitan area.
The availability of vouchers may be limited if you live in an area with a lower average income and higher demand for vouchers. By law, all PHAs are required to save 75 percent of their vouchers for extremely low-income applicants, which include people whose income does not exceed 30 percent of the median income in the area. Remember that the Section 8 income limits are subject to change annually.
While income requirements for Section 8 housing are different depending on where you live, other qualifications are not. For example, Section 8 is only is only available to U.S. citizens and certain categories of non-citizens who are eligible based on their immigration status.
Additionally, you may only be approved if your household qualifies as a “family,” or has a member who is disabled or elderly. A family may include an individual or a group of people with or without children.
How to Increase Your Chances of Qualifying for Section 8 Housing
Unfortunately, even if you meet the Section 8 eligibility requirements, it may be difficult to receive a voucher right away. This is because the demand for Section 8 housing oftentimes exceeds the number of available units.
If you live in an area with high demand, the PHA may put you on a waiting list if there are not any eligible rental properties available at the moment. In some cases, Section 8 waiting lists can be extremely long and applicants may wait months or even years to finally receive a voucher.
Given how difficult it can be to get a Section 8 housing voucher, it helps to understand what factors may increase your chances of being approved. First, be aware that most PHAs will give preference to households that meet certain criteria.
For example, families with an extremely low income will usually receive assistance more quickly than families that have a slightly higher income. Preferences may also be given to people who:
- Are currently homeless.
- Live in housing that is not safe or sanitary.
- Pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent.
- Have been involuntarily displaced from their homes due to a natural disaster or government action.
Keep in mind that Section 8 preferences can vary from one PHA to the next. It may be in your best interest to ask the local PHA about the types of preferences that they grant to applicants who are placed on the waiting list. Another step you can take to improve your chances of getting a Section 8 housing voucher is to maintain your eligibility while you are on the waiting list.
The PHA will assess your eligibility when placing you on the waiting list, but also checks that you can still qualify for Section 8 housing once your name comes up on the list. Because some waiting lists can take months or even longer, you may want to pay attention to factors that could affect your future eligibility as well.
Remember that the requirements for Section 8 vary depending on the location. However, you usually must apply for a voucher through the PHA that serves the area where you currently live. If you happen to move while you are on the waiting list, you may want to check the requirements of the PHA that covers the community that you have moved to.
Reasons Your Section 8 Application May Have been Denied
Before submitting a Section 8 application, it helps to understand what factors may cause you to be denied. In some cases, a simple error may result in you being unable to get Section 8 assistance, while other times, you may be denied based on your eligibility.
The best way to ensure that your application will be accepted is to check that it is properly signed and that you have included all of the necessary paperwork. Unfortunately, an incomplete application will almost always result in a denial even though you may be otherwise eligible.
You may also be denied Section 8 housing if you fail to meet the program requirements. For example, your application may be rejected if someone in your household:
- Has been evicted from public housing for drug-related activities.
- Is a registered sex offender.
- Has a history of using alcohol or drugs in a way that has endangered other members of your household or community in public housing.
How Section 8 and a Government Shutdown May Affect Your Application
In the event of a government shutdown, it helps to know how your Section 8 application or vouchers may be affected. While Section 8 funding comes from the federal government, PHAs are not federal agencies.
As a result, PHAs are generally able to stay open even if there is a Section 8 government shutdown. However, staff may be limited, and applications may take longer to process due to the fact that PHAs may need to cut their hours in order to conserve the necessary funds.
If a shutdown lasts long enough, PHAs may struggle to maintain their normal operations and in some cases, vouchers may be delayed. If you are concerned, you may contact your PHA to learn exactly what you should expect.
Tips to Pay for Rent After Section 8 Denial
When you are denied Section 8, you are still allowed to live in the rental unit. However, you must pay for the apartment at full market price. If you cannot, then you may be evicted. Below are some tips that can help you make ends meet. These may be useful while your appeals may be processing or searching for another place to live.
- Reach out to a local charity. National charities like the Salvation Army provide emergency financial assistance if you cannot pay for rent. Other charities that provide a small but significant sum are 211.org and Modest Needs. You may also find local organizations that offer rental assistance by contacting your local housing authority.
- Pick up a part-time job. There are many part-time jobs and odd jobs to apply for to make ends meet. Within the gig economy age, there are jobs you do that do not take up too much time. Some examples are being an Uber driver, selling clothes online or working retail. There are a variety of jobs and they do not have to be permanent.
- Ask to borrow money. There may be some family members or friends willing to lend a hand for the time being. It is important that you borrow on the basis of trust. For instance, making sure to let the other party know when to pay them back.