Low-income families may qualify for Section 8 vouchers if they meet basic eligibility requirements and wish to obtain affordable housing. These eligibility requirements pertaining to their income, citizenship status, and criminal background. In some cases, qualifying program recipients may be eligible for other types of financial assistance as well, especially if they need help paying their bills. While not all housing properties accept Section 8 vouchers as payment, applicants may refer to housing lists and additional resources to find properties that do.
What is the Section 8 housing program?
As part of the Section 8 program, low-income beneficiaries receive project-based or housing choice vouchers to cover a portion of their housing costs. While the Section 8 program began as part of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, the program underwent many changes in 1974 and continues to evolve today. Since its inception, the Section 8 program has continued to provide financial assistance to low-income families as they search for affordable housing opportunities in their area.
Find Out the Different Types of Section 8 Vouchers
Two types of housing vouchers are available to recipients of the Section 8 program: Housing choice or project-based vouchers. While project vouchers can only be used to obtain affordable housing opportunities in specific locations, neighborhoods or housing units, housing choice vouchers provide qualifying recipients with the freedom and flexibility to redeem their vouchers at any participating housing complex that accepts Section 8 as payment.
Who is eligible for Section 8 vouchers?
Our Section 8 Housing Guide provides low-income families with specific information about the various eligibility requirements they must meet in order to qualify for housing assistance under this program. In most cases, these eligibility requirements pertain to their household income, criminal background and U.S. citizenship status. However, specific requirements may vary by public housing authority (PHA), as local PHAs can set their own guidelines as well, as long as they comply with federal regulations under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
For instance, federal regulations pertain to:
- Citizenship status. Under federal HUD standards, Section 8 applicants must be able to present proof of legal presence in the U.S. in order to obtain benefits under this program. Typically, U.S. citizens, legal immigrants, and mixed families (households with U.S. citizens and non-legal immigrants) will qualify for Section 8 benefits if they meet other eligibility requirements. For mixed families who wish to apply for Section 8 benefits, however, the actual voucher amount may be based on the eligibility of household members with legal presence in the U.S.
- Criminal history. To meet federal HUD guidelines, Section 8 beneficiaries must pass a background check. Additionally, applicants with prior criminal convictions must wait a minimum amount of time before they may apply for benefits under the Section 8 program. For instance, those who were formerly evicted from Section 8 housing due to the conviction of a drug-related offense must wait at least three years before they may apply for Section 8 housing once again. However, some PHAs may follow an additional set of guidelines.
- Methamphetamine convictions. For prior convictions pertaining to the production of methamphetamine, applicants cannot obtain Section 8 housing vouchers at any time.
Section 8 Income Restrictions
In addition to the federal regulations under the HUD, Section 8 applicants must meet household income restrictions depending on the size of their home. However, these restrictions typically vary by PHA, as some PHAs accept higher household income limits while others may only accept applicants that reside in homes with very low incomes. In most cases, Section 8 beneficiaries must receive a household income that does not exceed 50 percent of the median income amount in their area. Since median income amounts vary by area and PHA, income limitations may vary widely throughout a single state.
Depending on the area in which applicants reside, certain families may also be able to apply for Section 8 benefits through more than one local PHA. However, local PHAs must use their own discretion when determining whether to allow this.
Since local income limits tend to fluctuate by year, a household’s eligibility for Section 8 assistance may also change as time goes on. Therefore, a Section 8 beneficiary must report any pertinent household changes to his or her local PHA as soon as these updates occur.
Read our comprehensive guide to learn more about these eligibility requirements, including the income restrictions applicants must meet.
What happens if your request for Section 8 assistance is denied?
If your citizenship status, criminal history or household income does not meet the minimum eligibility requirements of this housing assistance program, you may not qualify for Section 8 vouchers. In situations such as these, your local PHA will send you a letter that includes a reason for the denial of benefits. If you apply for Section 8 benefits but do not agree with the PHA’s determination, however, you may request an appeal.
If your application for Section 8 benefits is denied, our comprehensive guide can walk you through the steps of filing an appeal. In many cases, you must provide proof of your eligibility for benefits when appealing the decision.
Discover Section 8 Waiting Lists
After applying for Section 8 assistance, qualifying beneficiaries will be placed on a list as they wait to receive their housing vouchers. Known as the Section 8 waiting list, applicants will remain on this list until benefits become available to them. Unless households are placed on a priority list, the waiting process may be lengthy. However, priority groups are available to the following:
- Families with young children
- Applicants with disabilities
- Homeless applicants
Once applicants are placed on the Section 8 waiting list, they must notify their local PHA whenever their address or household income changes, as these updates could move them onto a priority list or affect their Section 8 benefit amount. Additionally, those who do not report an address change to their local PHA may fail to receive a confirmation letter when their Section 8 benefits do become available to them.
Moreover, the Section 8 waiting list closes during periods of high volume, and most PHAs cannot predict the date on which the list will reopen. When the waiting list closes, households cannot apply for Section 8 housing vouchers.
Learn About Section 8 Housing Lists
Once beneficiaries receive their voucher, they may refer to a housing list to find affordable housing opportunities that accept Section 8 benefits in their area. For instance, those who receive housing vouchers must refer to this type of list to help them find a home or rental unit that accepts Section 8 vouchers as payment. Additionally, these lists provide beneficiaries with additional details about the property, including any amenities or services it provides its tenants.
Typically, PHAs provide Section 8 beneficiaries with additional resources for accessing local housing lists. However, our Section 8 Housing Guide provides applicants with comprehensive information about the process of applying for housing assistance through this program.
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