(ModernSurvival.org) – For millions, Section 8 housing assistance provides the chance to live in a safe, clean, and affordable home. Created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Section 8 housing assistance gives struggling families the opportunity to escape bad neighborhoods or save money to purchase a home of their own.
Qualified individuals receive vouchers that help pay rent. The tenants spend a reasonable amount of their income on the rental fee, and the government makes up the balance. Although the program is administered by HUD, the program is officially overseen by Public Housing Authorities (PHA).
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to qualify for Section 8 housing assistance. The program has standard requirements applicants must meet for eligibility. Since the PHA administers the program on a local level, applicants must also know the additional requirements in their area.
What is Section 8 Housing Assistance?
Section 8 housing assistance provides housing vouchers to qualified low-income individuals and families. Known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 project-based rental assistance, Section 8 assisted living, or just Section 8, the program aims to provide safe, affordable housing to qualifying applicants.
Those who receive housing vouchers through Section 8 select their own housing unit, though it must be listed under the housing program.
Eligibility Requirements for Section 8 Housing Assistance
The eligibility requirements for Section 8 housing assistance vary by locality. However, there are four standards the PHA considers for all applicants. These include:
- Income level
- Family size and status
- Eviction history
- Citizenship status
Each factor will be considered when determining an applicant’s eligibility, and each requirement must be met to proceed. The program occasionally allows acceptions, but applicants must meet as many of the requirements as possible.
After filling out an application, you will be placed on a waiting list because multiple other families are applying too, and funds are limited.
One of the main goals of Section 8 housing assistance is to provide safe and reliable homes to low-income families. As such, income levels are an essential factor in determining an applicant’s eligibility for the program. The local PHA will consider your family’s annual income and household size when determining how much rent you’ll need to pay.
The local PHA agency will require income documentation from every eligible member of the household, including overtime pay, hourly wages, salaries, child support, alimony, commissions, pension, welfare benefits, disability benefits, veterans benefits, retirement fund withdrawals, Social Security benefits, rental property income, interest earned from investments, and more. As a rule of thumb, the more people in the family, the higher the annual income levels can be to still qualify.
Generally, income levels can be divided into three categories:
- Extremely low income- earning only up to 30% of the applicant’s area median income
- Very low income- earning up to 50% of the area median income
- Extremely low income- earning only up to 30% of the area’s median income
Extremely low-income families are often prioritized in the program for immediate assistance moving up to low-income families. Since these income levels are based on the applicant’s location, they vary from state to state. In addition, HUD updates these annually based on inflation levels within the country. Check with your local PHA office to find out what the specific levels of income are for your area right now.
Once approved for the program, applicants generally pay 30% of their family’s adjusted annual income in rental fees. The program will reassess your income levels yearly to ensure you’re still eligible for housing assistance. You’ll need to notify the local PHA immediately if you have a significant change in income levels.
Family Size and Status
In order to qualify for Section 8 housing assistance, your family must meet the HUD’s definition of family, which consists of the following factors:
- An elderly household with at least one member over the age of 62
- A near-elderly household with at least one member between the ages of 50 and 62
- At least one disabled family member
- A family with or without children
- A single individual who lives alone
- A displaced household forced from their current residence by a natural disaster or another form of physical damage
- An individual remaining in a section 8 housing unit after other members have all moved out
Local PHAs have the authority to add additional regulations here as well, so it’s important to check with them before applying.
The Section 8 housing assistance program considers an applicant’s past rental history when considering their eligibility. Knowing an applicant’s rental history lets the program know if they can expect the family to abide by the rules and regulations of the housing unit. If a tenant has a history of evictions within the past three years, especially because of drug-related crimes, their application will be denied.
To qualify for the Section 8 housing program, applicants must be U.S. citizens or prove their immigration status. Verifying this information often requires a passport along with a social security card or green card. This verification process happens once during the admission process and must be completed for each family member.
Non-U.S. citizens may still apply for Section 8 assistance so long as they have eligible immigration documentation or family members who are U.S. citizens. Applicants without documentation can still receive prorated assistance as a “mixed family,” but this offers less than what is given to U.S. citizens or those with appropriate immigration documents. Applicants with children in the household will have to provide birth certificates for them.
Finding safe, clean, and affordable housing is a significant concern for many low-income households. The assistance provided by Section 8 housing vouchers is a blessing that offers millions of people the opportunity to find appropriate housing they can afford. Unfortunately, demand for the program often exceeds the program’s ability to help, especially when the economy is suffering. Some applicants wait months or even years for assistance. In dire times, the PHA may even close the waiting list.
If you believe Section 8 housing assistance can help you or someone you know, reach out to your local PHA through the HUD website for more information regarding eligibility requirements in your area.
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