Housing assistance of some kind, has existed for Americans since 1937 when the first public housing program was created through the U.S. Housing Act of that same year. The agency oversaw and authorized loans to Public Housing Authority agencies throughout the country so they could build public housing units for low-income renters. The buildings they built were the housing projects that became famous in many large cities.

Over the years, the Public Housing Authority passed from agency to agency. First, it was part of the National Housing Authority (NFA.) Then it became part of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA.) Today, it is known as the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Beginnings of HUD

The Department of Housing and Urban Development was born out of the 1965 Housing and Urban Development Act. That prompted HUD to start the leased housing program. The program encouraged local property owners to rent to program participants. It guaranteed that most of the rent would be paid.

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 changed the name and number of that program. The new program was called the Section 8 Leased Housing Program. Vouchers that qualified elderly, low-income, and disabled people and families get through HUD, are funded by the Section 8 program that started in 1974.

The program's real function is to help qualified low income families, live in privately owned housing. Thanks to the vouchers, renters participating in the program can afford to lease units in their own communities.

What Are Section 8 Choice Vouchers?

The Section 8 Choice Voucher program is a tenant-based program. Unlike the project-based program, where participating in Section 8 funding is attached to the housing project, the tenant-based program lets renters live where they want. If you move, as long as you're still eligible for the program, you can keep your certificate.

Section 8 Waiting List Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible, you must be an American citizen, or be eligible as a legal immigrant under rules set forth by the Public Housing Authority.

Your gross adjusted income and the size of your family must fall below the 50 percent median income for the city, county or jurisdiction you live in. Local Public Housing Authority agencies should have the income guidelines on their website.

How HUD Defines a Family

A family consists of a single person or a group of people, including children. Children in temporary foster home placement should also be counted as family members.

Elderly people – Elderly people are defined as being age 62 or over. An elderly family can include one person or two people over 62, or one person who is over age 62 or is an aide. Individuals and families who fall in these categories may be eligible for priority consideration.

Disabled people – To qualify as a disabled family, the household may include one person with a disability, a disabled couple, a household of two, in which one of the two people is disabled, and may include an aide.

Displaced people – People who qualify as displaced do so either because the place they were living in is either destroyed or extensively damaged because of a natural disaster. People can also become displaced through government policies.

Documentation You'll Need to Have When Applying

  • Birth Certificates for all members of household

  • Social Security Cards for household members

  • Driver's License

  • State Identification or other government issued photo identification card.

  • Passport for Non U.S. Citizens

  • Immigration papers of resident aliens and registered immigrants

  • Signed verification of immigrant status by issuing agency.

Income Information You Need to Provide

  • Social Security Verification Letter and Proof of Benefits

  • Proof of income, including pay check receipts, W2 form, tax returns

  • Bank statements

  • Proof of public assistance benefits

  • Asset information

There are nowhere near enough vouchers to meet the need of everyone who qualifies for and applies for them. Once waiting lists are open, agencies are flooded with applications. You only have a few days to apply. Don't waste time or risk not having your application entered into the system. Get the required application documents together now.

To apply for and get on a Section 8 Voucher List, contact your local public housing authority office. You can also find out when the waiting list will open.