Learn How to Qualify for Section 8

Learn How to Qualify for Section 8 Housing in the U.S.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is more commonly referred to by its nickname, Section 8. It is a government welfare program funded by the federal government. The purpose of this program is to provide families with low income help in finding suitable housing. The eligibility requirements for this program are mostly based upon income. However, additional factors help determine if an individual or family can receive aid and how long it will take for them to secure a housing voucher.

There is a constant demand for low-income housing options throughout the country and this contributes to the popularity of the Section 8 program. As many states cannot keep up with the demand, they have created a waiting list which is almost closed. A closed waiting list means that residents cannot even submit an application to be considered for Section 8. Those who do apply and are accepted for housing must continue to meet program guidelines in order to keep their benefits. Additional program requirements include having to participate in special programs. These programs are designed to teach families the skill necessary to achieve a better level of financial independence. Financially independent individuals are more likely to achieve their education and career aspirations.

What are the Section 8 housing qualifications?

Families who wish to receive Section 8 voucher privileges must meet the set requirements at the time they apply. Gross income limits are set by each state, individually. As mentioned above, applicants who apply for assistance must continually be eligible throughout their time in the program. This means that any changes in income could affect eligibility. As this program is designated for those who cannot afford to pay rental market prices for housing, it is important that only those who qualify be afforded this type of aid.

There are additional factors that are taken into consideration when a resident applies for Section 8. These factors can include the following:

  • Family size
  • Family composition
  • Personal assets
  • Family history
  • Immigration status
  • Rental history (history of evictions, etc.)

Not only are income limits determined by states but they also vary widely within states. County public housing associations (PHAs) determine the income limit for the area. Family size is factored into income limits as well since a household consisting of one person would qualify under less strict guidelines than one consisting of more than one person. For example, a single-member household could be considered low income at $12,000 a year. And on the other hand, a family of eight with a household income of at $24,000 would be considered extremely low income. As the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prioritizes extremely low income families, both households in this scenario would have higher priority over households that are considered simply ‘low income’. However, low-income families that have be approved for public assistance in the past have a great chance of receiving benefits as well.

PHAs conduct a thorough investigation in order to determine whether or not a family qualifies for benefits. To this end, they will search your background using the verification documents you provided (proof of identity, income, citizenship, etc.) in order to determine your income and the value of your assets. They will obtain information from companies you do business with such as employers, banks and other government assistance programs. In addition to income, your caseworker will evaluate your household’s spending and lifestyle. The Section 8 program and government assistance programs in general have strict rules regarding tenants with prior drug convictions. Those who are deemed eligible for benefits will then be evaluated on how much they can afford in rent.

What are the Section 8 eligibility income guidelines?

Applicants must familiarize themselves with the requirements with regards to income in order to become aware of how to become eligible for Section 8 housing. Households with low income are in need to adequate housing at an affordable price, hence why the program is so popular and difficult to get into. According to PHAs, households with low income are those whose income is below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Households who fall into one of the following thresholds may qualify for benefits: extremely low income, very low income and low income.

Those who fall into the extremely low income category are given the highest priority as their income is only 30 percent of the median income level of the area. Those whose income is 50 percent of the median income of a given area are considered very low income. And finally, households with an income of 80 percent of the median level of the are considered low income.

Families with even lower income—less than 30 percent of the median income for the area—get first priority for Section 8 vouchers. 75 percent off all available vouchers are dispersed to these households.

For the purpose of determining eligibility, PHAs define a family as:

  • A household that consists of a group of individuals
  • A single person older than 62 years of age
  • A single person without children
  • A household in which at least one member has been displaced at some point

The Department of Housing and Urban Development publishes the latest data related to median income in the United States. As median income figures vary drastically from one area of the country to the next, it is important to check with your local PHA to find out the latest numbers.

In calculating a household’s income, local PHAs will determine if it meets the guidelines for the area or not. If not, then that family is deemed automatically ineligible for a voucher. Though, if the family does fall into the proper income brackets, then they will be on to the next step in the eligibility determination process. It is important to keep in mind that some source of income can be excluded from the calculation.

Find Out Which Are the Section 8 Citizenship Requirements

The citizenship status of housing voucher recipients is such that they must be citizens or immigrants with proof of legal presence in the United States. Acceptable documents of proof include the following:

  • U.S. passport
  • Social Security card
  • Resident alien card (‘green card’)

Citizens and those able to prove legal presence in the U.S. are eligible to obtain benefits. However, those who cannot are automatically disqualified from consideration. In circumstances where some members of the household are citizens and some are not, the caseworker will prorate assistance. That means that eligibility will be calculated based n the number of household members who are legal citizens.


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