The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program makes safe housing more affordable for low-income families, those with disabilities and the elderly. The program, which is run by the federal government and locally handled by public housing agencies (PHAs), provides those who meet the requirements with vouchers that they can use toward rent. The local PHA pays the landlord a housing subsidy to make up the difference. Those who qualify for a housing voucher must find housing rented out by a landlord who is willing to participate in the Section 8 program, and the housing must meet certain safety and health requirements.

Program Requirements for Eligibility

The local PHA determines eligibility by considering the following factors:

  • Total annual gross income
  • Family size
  • Citizenship status: US citizens qualify, but non-citizens must have eligible immigration status

Housing Voucher Application Process

Those who want to apply for a housing voucher must contact their local PHA. During the application process, applicants will need to provide the following information:

  • Total annual gross income
  • Assets
  • Family Size

The PHA verifies this information once the application is submitted, then determines whether or not the applicant is eligible for a voucher and how much the housing assistance payments should be. When the PHA determines that the applicant is eligible, the applicant is added to a waiting list if a housing voucher is not immediately available.

Waiting Lists

Waiting lists are common in many areas because there are typically a lot of applicants and limited resources. If the local PHA determines that there are too many applicants, it closes the waiting list until more resources are available. Some PHAs have local preferences and will give housing vouchers to those who fall under these categories first. Local preferences usually include the following:

  • Applicants who are homeless or currently living in housing that is in poor condition
  • Applicants who are currently paying 50 percent of their income on rent
  • Applicants who are displaced through no fault of their own

Housing Voucher Process

When applicants receive a voucher, they must find suitable housing in a unit size for which they are eligible. The housing also needs to meet the PHA’s health and safety level requirements, and the landlord must agree to sign a housing assistance payments contract with the PHA. After the voucher recipient finds housing and negotiates lease terms with the landlord, the PHA will perform an inspection to see if the landlord is asking for a reasonable rental rate.

Housing Assistance Amounts

The PHA calculates a payment standard based on the average rental rates of local housing that is moderately priced. The payment standard only determines how much housing assistance recipients receive, not how much a landlord is allowed to charge for rent. Typically, the amount of housing assistance is the payment standard or rental rate (whichever is lower) minus 30 percent of the recipient’s monthly adjusted gross income.

Those who are approved for the Section 8 housing voucher program should keep in mind that they must notify the PHA if their income or family size changes, and they must also pay their share of the rent on time each month.