The Section 8 housing program, also called Housing Choice Voucher Program), is the major program of the federal government to assist individuals with housing in the United States. This assistance is provided to the very low income, the elderly and disabled to help them afford decent, safe and sanitary housing.
You are free to choose your own housing accommodations as long as it meets the requirements of the program. Units may be where you are currently living, single family homes, townhouses or apartments. Rental units must meet the minimum standards for health and safety.
Local public housing authorities (PHA) are responsible for administering the program in your city. A housing subsidy is paid directly to the owner by the PHA on your behalf. You, then, pay the difference between the actual amount of rent charged and the amount that has been subsidized by the program.
Part 1 – Are You Eligible?
Your eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by your local Public Housing Authority. It is based on your total annual income, your family size and your U.S. citizenship. Specified categories of non –citizens who have eligible immigration status may also qualify.
During your application process, the PHA will ask you questions about your family income, your income, assets and your family size and makeup. Be aware that the PHA will verify all of the information you provide with your bank, your employer and other local agencies that you might be registered with. This information will be used to determine your eligibility and the amount of your housing assistance.
If you are eligible to receive housing assistance, your name will be placed on a waiting list. Once your name is reached on the waiting list, the PHA will contact you and give you your housing voucher.
- How To Apply – If you are interested in applying for housing assistance, please click on this link local PHA; to find your local Public Housing Assistance Program.
- Waiting List – It is not unusual for the demand for assistance is greater than the limited resources available. You may experience a long wait before your name is next on the list.
- Preferences – There are certain circumstances that the PHA will select applicants from the waiting list. If you are:
- Homeless or living in substandard housing
- Paying more than 50% of your income for rent
- Involuntarily displaced.
Your local PHA will decide preferences based on housing needs of your community.
Part 2 – How Does The Voucher Program Work
The housing choice voucher program gives you the choice of your housing preference. If you are selected to participate, you will be asked to look at several housing options to get the best for your family size. You will be told what size unit you are eligible to receive.
Your local PHA will determine a payment standard which will be based on a moderately priced unit for you to rent. Please note: the payment standard does not limit nor affect the amount of rent the landlord may charge. It only affects the amount that your voucher will cover.
You will be responsible for 30% of your monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilizes, if your landlord charges more for rent than your subsidy. According to the law, you may not pay more than 40% of your adjusted gross income for your portion of the rent.
Once you find a unit that you want and you have reached an agreement with the landlord about the terms of the lease, your local PHA will inspect the unit to make sure it meets the minimum standards for health and safety. The PHA will also decide if the requested rent is reasonable.
There may come a time when your housing needs change due to family size, job location, etc. The housing voucher program will allow you to move without the loss of your benefits. You must let your local PHA know ahead of time, terminate your lease (within the terms) and find alternate housing.
If you are a new housing voucher recipient, you can choose a unit anywhere in the United States as long as you were living in the jurisdiction of the PHA where you initially applied. Once accepted, you must live in that jurisdiction for the first 12 months. Please get with your local PHA to find out the proper procedures for moving before you do so. You don’t want to run the risk of losing your housing vouchers and having to start the process all over again.
Part 3 –Roles and Obligations; Tenant, Landlord, PHA
Once the unit that you have selected has been approved, you and the landlord will sign a lease and the landlord and your local PHA will also sign a housing payment contract. This will run the same length of time as your lease. This means that everyone-you, the landlord and the PHA have certain responsibilities.
- Your Obligations – Once you have selected a unit and your local PHA has approved and signed off on the lease, you must sign the lease for twelve (12) months. If the landlord requests a security deposit, it is your responsibility to pay it. After the first twelve months, the landlord may issue a new lease or allow you to remain in the unit on a month-to-month basis.
Once you are settled in your new home, you are expected to comply with the terms of the lease and the requirements of the program. You must pay your portion of the rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and let your local PHA know of any changes to your income and/or family size.
- Landlord’s Obligation – Your landlord’s responsibility is to provide you with decent, safe and sanitary housing at a reasonable rent. Your unit must pass the housing program quality standards, as long as your landlord is receiving housing assistance payments. Your landlord is also obligated to provide whatever services that are stated in the lease.
- Housing Authority Obligation – Your local PHA will provide you with housing assistance that will enable you to find suitable housing. They will enter into a contract with your landlord to provide housing assistance payments on your behalf.
If your landlord fails to meet the obligations of the lease, the PHA has the right to terminate assistance payments. Your family’s income and make-up will be re-examined yearly to make sure you meet minimum housing standard requirements.
Other Housing Assistance Programs
- Making Home Affordable (MHA) – This is a federally funded program that provides assistance if you are behind on your mortgage payments, or worried about how you’ll make the next one . Take the first step and visit the website below to see if you qualify. https://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/pages/default.aspx
- Single Parent Alliance of America (SPAOA.org) – This is a for profit website that has information and resources for single parents in the United States. For additional information, visit: www.spaoa.org.
- Benefits.gov (Your Path to Government Benefits) – This is the official benefits website of the U.S. government. The purpose is to inform citizens of benefits they may be eligible for and/or provides information on how to apply for assistance. There are many agencies on this website that provide much needed assistance. http://www.benefits.gov/
A Final Word
Program Description: The housing choice voucher program provides assistance to very low-income families to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Housing can include single-family homes, townhouses and apartments and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.
General Program Requirements: Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
Your Next Steps
The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this benefit.
If you are interested in applying for a voucher, contact the local PHA:
Program Contact Information
For further assistance, visit the following website and click on “Local Offices”, located on the left side of the page:
For additional information, please contact the Public and Indian Housing (PIH) Customer Service Center at:
Or you may call us at 1-800-955-2232, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST) daily, Monday through Friday.