Do You Qualify for Section 8? How to Find Out

( – Getting into the Section 8 Program for housing assistance is a journey: from figuring out where to live to completing the current forms and finding a landlord to fit your situation, there are many hurdles during your time of need. Section 8 is considered an economic lifeline. It helps unhoused people get into rentable homes, aids some families in starting to save for homes of their own, and enables other residents to relocate from dangerous neighborhoods.

The History of the Section 8 Housing Program

The Section 8 Program was created by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s goal with the program is to ensure low-income households access safe, sanitary, suitable, affordable housing. The funds for this program are released in the form of vouchers going directly to landlords. When landlords accept Section 8 housing vouchers, they’re doing so with the understanding that the federal government is paying the majority of a person’s rent — which is less risky than renting to a low-income tenant without that guarantee.

The vouchers ensure that those who qualify only spend part of their income on rent. While HUD administers the program, it’s run by PHAs, or Public Housing Authorities, which operate locally.

About Section 8 Housing Assistance

Section 8 isn’t easy for everyone to qualify for. The list of those who qualify is needs-based, meaning families with children, for example, might be ahead of able-bodied individuals. There are specific requirements to meet — some federal, but some may also be imposed locally by the PHA.

The Section 8 Housing Assistance Program is also called the Housing Choice Voucher Program, but most people just refer to it as “Section 8.” It’s also been called “section 8 assisted living” and “Section 8 project-based rental assistance.” The program is specifically for low-income residents, and those who qualify can choose their own housing as long as it’s listed under the program.

How to Qualify for Section 8

Section 8 qualifications can be tricky as the program is meant for a specific segment: those who are low-income and in need of housing. Details of eligibility vary from PHA to PHA, but there are four main qualification factors for every applicant. They are:

  • Family size and status
  • Level of income
  • Status of citizenship
  • Eviction history

To be considered, you need to meet all qualifications. There are rare exceptions. Once you apply, you get placed on a waiting list. Let’s take a look at what each qualification means:

  • Family status and size: This qualification is all about meeting the HUD definition of “family.” To them, family means a household with at least one member of 62 years of age or higher, one or more family members who are disabled, a household with one or more members over age 50 and under 62 years of age, a family with or without children, a single individual who does not meet the other criteria, a person who stays in Section 8 when other household members have moved on, and a household who has experienced displacement due to a natural disaster, a governmental move, or physical damage.
  • Income level: Income level is about making sure low-income individuals and families are served first. This means your family must earn under 80 percent of the area median income in the place you apply, very low-income meaning you earn 50 percent or less of the area median income, or extremely low income, meaning you only meet the 30 percent mark of the area median income. The verification process for income happens annually.
  • Citizenship status: Section 8 is open to United States citizens and legal immigrants. Typically, you will furnish a social security card or green card as proof of identity or legal residency.
  • Eviction history: Because the program needs to flourish with people who can pay rent, an eviction could damage your ability to qualify, especially if it was due to a drug-related crime, methamphetamine production, etc. Usually the PHA considers the last three years of rental history when looking for evictions.

Based on this information, if you are a family in need and likely qualify for Section 8 housing, reach out to your PHA to begin the process. Because there is a waitlng list, it’s best to apply as soon as you qualify so you can get into new housing as soon as possible.

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