Section 8 Housing Programs

What is Section 8 Housing Program?

Federal Program, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Serving millions of American families, over 50% of whom elderly or disabled, 75% very low-income

2015 Budget highlights:

  • $19.3 billion Tenant-Based
  • $9.7 billion Project-Based
  • $6.4 billion Rental Assistance and Public Housing
  • $2.1 billion Homeless Assistance Grants
  • $3.0 billion Community Development Block Grants

Section 8 Housing Program was created by the US Congress back in 1974 as a set of rental assistance subprograms for low-income households. Managed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Section 8 provides rental subsidies for eligible tenant families including single persons. With Section 8 program housing rent assistance payments are made through vouchers called Housing Choice Vouchers. A Housing Choice Voucher can be issued as a project-based, tenant-based, or other (see a list below).

List of Housing Choice Vouchers and Beneficiaries

Tenant Based Vouchers

If you qualify and are a recipient of Tenant-Based Voucher you are free to choose any apartment or housing unit that qualifies for Section 8 program anywhere in the United States. The local public housing agency (PHA) that administers the Section 8 voucher program has to approve your eligibility and the housing unit you choose. PHA drafts a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract with the landlord and issues tenant-based voucher on behalf of the tenant family. In a case of tenants decide to move out of the apartment and move into another qualified housing unit the payment assistance continues to the recipients with a new HAP contract.

Project Based Vouchers

Project Based Vouchers are rental assistance vouchers given to pay part of the rent to qualified tenants for a specific building where owner reserves part or all the units for low-income tenants. Some of the new housing developments are started  as a project-based, designated as Section 8 and subsidized by the Federal Government with the main purpose to provide affordable housing for low-income families.

Vouchers for People with Disabilities

Enable very low-income non-elderly families having a person with disabilities to lease affordable private housing. The candidate family annual gross income must not exceed the HUD established low-income limit for the area where the housing unit is located. The voucher is issued by the local public housing agency.

Homeownership Vouchers

Yes. There are such Housing Choice Vouchers under Section 8 program and they allow very low-income families to purchase their first home. Not all local public housing agencies participate in the program. There are also certain eligibility requirements, including minimum income and employment requirement that must be met by applicants. Candidates should check with their local PHA.

Veterans HUD-VASH Vouchers

Provide rental assistance to low-income homeless veterans. This voucher program includes a case management and clinical services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In the last five years, more than 48,000 HUD-VASH Vouchers have been awarded to low-income homeless veterans.

Family Unification Vouchers

Helps low-income families to rent affordable housing in order to prevent separation of children from their families or when renting affordable housing will help reunifying the children with their families. Families who are interested in applying for Family Unification Vouchers should contact their local public housing agency to determine availability and eligibility of this type of rental assistance.

Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS)

Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS) offers voluntary 5-year contracts of participation for families already using Section 8 Vouchers. The FSS Program goal is to help families increase their earned income and reduce dependency on welfare assistance and rental subsidies thus achieving a financial independency by the end of the five-year contract. When a family is selected for participation in Self-Sufficiency Program the head of the family signs a five-year Contract of Participation with the local Public Housing Agency. Under the FSS Program, the contract specifies the goals to be achieved by the family, their rights and responsibilities, and all services for the family under the FSS Program that may include the following assistance: child care, education, job training and transportation, employment counseling, financial literacy, and homeownership counseling. Once the Contract of Participation is signed an interest bearing escrow account is set up by the PHA for the FSS participating family. During the period of participation in the FSS Program, the family gets a credit to their escrow account for any rent increases that would be the result of their improved earned income. When the family successfully graduate from the FSS Program, they can access the money in the escrow account and use it for any purpose.

Who may be eligible for Section 8?

Section 8 Program was created to help provide affordable housing to very low-income households – families and individuals. In addition, it helps specific categories tenants like veterans, persons with disabilities, and keeping low-income families and their children together. HUD determines median income levels for each area annually and sets the limits to local public housing agencies. Eligibility requirements include income below 50 percent of area median income. Some specific categories of families can be eligible to apply for Housing Choice Vouchers with incomes up to 80% of the area median income. For specifics on eligibility for each Section 8 of the Housing Choice Vouchers please check with your local public housing agency (PHA).

How to apply for Section 8 program Housing Choice Vouchers?

A low-income household that needs assistance to pay its rent can apply for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher at any city or county housing authority office in their state – normally this is the public housing agency,  the PHA. You can apply at any US PHA but many agencies give preference to residents of the local community over non-residents and you may be required to reside in the jurisdiction of that PHA for at least one year.

How long is the waiting time for Section 8 housing vouchers?

Once a family or an individual qualifies for Section 8 the applicant is placed on a waiting list.  In most areas the waiting list is full, with thousands of households waiting for their vouchers. The waiting time varies from area to area and the applicants can get estimation by contacting the local PHA.

You can search for your local Public Housing Agency here.