Affordable Housing Common Q & A

Receiving and applying for Section 8 housing choice vouchers comes with challenges.  And with 2020 presenting even more challenges due to all time high unemployment rates from the impact of the COVID-19 virus, more people are in need of housing assistance. 

We have written an article based on our first hand experience with applying for section 8 and other housing assistance programs in the year 2020. We hope to give our readers more insight on what the current  climate is like when applying for housing assistance. Our gold is to help our readers avoid common mistakes made in the application process for affordable housing programs.  

Please note that Section 8 is also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV).

How to Locate Low-Income Housing Near Me?

Our favorite tool is HUD’s low-income resource finder. You will be able to access a variety of government sponsored low-income housing options by click this link.

Then follow these simple steps: 

1. Allow HUD to access your location. Select your state on the map.
2. Scroll the list for contact information for low-income Public Housing Agencies/Authorities (PHA) in your area.
3.For Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher applications contact a Public Housing Authority for  Section 8 applications.
4. If available in your area there will also be options to select offices for Multifamily Housing (Low Income, Elderly, and Special Needs Housing). 
5. Offices for Low Income Housing Tax Credit Properties (LIHTC) another subsidized housing program similar to section 8. 

Contact any offices that are of interests to you. 

Are There Location Restrictions for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers?

Section 8 vouchers can be used anywhere there is a Public Housing Agency (PHA) present, all 50 states have PHA offices. The unit you choose to move in, however, must pass the inspection by the PHA, and the rent must fall within the voucher budget.

Although section 8 housing choice vouchers can be used in all states, some landlords may refuse voucher holders.

In some states, it is illegal for landlords to refuse a tenant simply based on the fact they have federal housing assistance, but landlords still have the freewill to select tenants. 

To be sure of the laws surrounding section 8 in your state, ensure you check your local state laws. You can find out about each state’s rules here.

How Does the PHA Determine Rent Amount and Are There Limitations?

PHA determines rent amount for households based on the size of the household and the fair market rent of the area. Fair market rent is the rent estimate for a unit with a certain number of bedrooms in a particular area.

The fair market rent for different areas is calculated yearly by HUD based on information received through the help of census data and renter surveys about the rent and essential utilities such as gas or electricity that tenants pay for.

This fair market rent (FMR) serves as a limitation to the amount of money housing agencies can administer. 

Based on the number of people in the household, the PHA will determine the apartment size that the household is eligible for. For example, a family of four may qualify for a three-bedroom apartment.

The voucher will then be issued depending on the fair market rent of a three-bedroom unit in that area.

The amount of money paid as rent by the residents depends on their income level and could vary from 30% of their monthly adjusted income, 10% of their monthly gross income, or a minimum amount set by the PHA. 

 

Can You Appeal if Your Application for Housing Assistance Was Rejected?

Yes, you can appeal if you were denied housing assistance. As a general rule, you must receive a denial letter indicating the reason your application was denied, along with proof.

For instance, if you were denied based on your criminal record, a copy of your criminal record should be attached. You have the right to request proof if none was given.

The denial letter will also indicate that you have the right to an informal hearing or review along with a deadline to make your appeal.

Before the informal hearing, you are allowed to request for a copy of all files used in your application and legal documents stating the laws of the program. 

If you are sure the basis of the denial does not apply to you, then you can appeal through a letter requesting an informal hearing or review. Typically, you have to submit this letter in-person.

You can find an example of an appeal letter here. The PHA will then set a reasonable date for your hearing. 

During the informal hearing, you must provide proof that the reason for denial is false or that it no longer applies to you.

If the hearing goes in your favor, you will be notified through a letter and your application will be reconsidered. If not, you may go ahead to make a further appeal in a federal or state court. 

Can Section 8 Find Out if You’re Working?

Yes, section 8 can find out if you’re working. Those who do not report a change in income as an attempt to keep paying a meager amount for their rent, or for any other reason, run the risk of being terminated from the section 8 program.

Be sure report to the housing agency if you get a new job to avoid losing your benefits. Also you could be convicted of fraud if you intentionally abuse the Section 8 rules.

How Do You Find Private Homeowners That Accept Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers?

You can find private homeowners that accept section 8 through online platforms like Zillow, Trulia or websites of housing agencies.
For example, on Zillow, you could search for homes in the area you wish to reside. Then under the search filter select the box that says “income restricted” you will then see housing options available in your area dedicated to low-income tenants like section 8 vouchers. Contact the available housing options listed in the search to see if they are accepting housing vouchers. 

You could also ask your housing agency for homeowners’ contacts.

In some states, private homeowners are not allowed to reject voucher tenants, while it’s optional in others. It’s a good idea to know your state’s rental laws for landlords when looking for a home to rent with a section 8 housing choice voucher. 

Can You Use a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to Purchase a Home? 

Yes, you can use a a HUD Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8 Voucher) to purchase a home. But, you will need to make sure that your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) is participating in HUD’s homeownership voucher program

Using your Section 8 housing choice voucher to pay for a mortgage will be a similar process to using your voucher for rental assistance. You will still need to meet program requirements, join a waitlist until resources become available and your applications is accepted by the PHA. 

Additionally, once accepted to the housing choice voucher program your PHA will likely require you to meet stricter employment, income and other requirements.  You will need to be a first-time homeowner. You will also need to attend a homeownership course, pay a fee and meet any other requirements set by the PHA.  

Contact your local PHA and make sure that they participate in the homeownership program if you are interested in using your voucher to pay for a mortgage. Some PHA’s will participate in the homeownership voucher program, but they are not required to do so. You can use this report by HUD to see if your local PHA is actively participating in the homeownership voucher program. 

Help With Move in Deposit

Low-income earners often find it difficult to afford the move-in deposit since the subsidized housing programs don’t pay your deposits in most cases.

You could get help with your move-in deposit from different agencies and charities that provide such services. Your local council may help you cover the costs through a rent deposit program, where you’d be given a loan with very little or no interest rate.

We also suggest that you ask your local PHA about properties that don’t require you to pay a security deposit. You can also ask for  any other referrals to agencies that could help with move-in expenses. 

How Much Does the PHA Communicate With the Landlord?

The PHA majorly communicates with the landlord during property inspections. There will also be communications between the PHA and the landlord when changes are made to the lease agreement such as an increase in rent. The landlord may also contact the PHA to report section 8 tenants. 

Section 8 Tenant Responsibilities

Section 8 tenants, also know as Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) have certain responsibilities in addition to the usual landlord to tenant laws.

Residents under section 8 are expected to carry out these responsibilities to maintain their housing choice vouchers. These expectations are as follows:

  • Find an Eligible Housing Unit and Live in It

The housing agency will only provide section 8 tenants with vouchers, but they are expected to find an eligible housing unit themselves.

Once the unit has been approved, you as a section 8 tenant are required to live in it and not lease it out to anyone, not even family, as this is regarded as a fraud and could lead to termination of housing assistance. 

  • Pay the Security Deposit and Tenant Portion of the Rent

Section 8 tenants are expected to pay the security deposit and their portion of the rent. If you are unable to pay the security deposit due to low finances, you could apply to other assistance programs for help.

Failure to pay your portion of the rent or consistently paying late could tarnish your image and cause you to lose your voucher privileges. 

  • Abide by the Lease Agreement Rules

Being a section 8 tenant does not make you immune to the general lease rules. You must abide by the rules signed in the lease agreement to avoid getting evicted.

These rules often include keeping the unit clean, not damaging the property, not disturbing the peace, and not using the property for criminal or illegal activities.

  • Notify the Housing Agency of Any Changes in Income or Family Size

As a section 8 tenant, you must report any changes in income or family size, like if you get or lose your job, or welcome any new family members.

Section 8 voucher amounts depend heavily on income and family size, so reporting any changes helps to ensure the vouchers are administered appropriately. 

Failure to report any changes could lead to loss of your voucher and legal action. Usually, tenants have 10 days to report any changes from when it occurs. 

  • Notify the Housing Agency of Any Before Moving. 

Section 8 residents are required to notify both the landlord and housing agency when vacating the unit. Typically, section 8 tenants can only move when their lease has expired and must give the landlord at least 30 days notice to create time to find a replacement. 

The housing agency must also be aware of the tenant’s plans to move in order to know when to stop sending payments to the landlord. 

Short Answers to Section 8 FAQs 

Are there location restrictions for section-8 housing choice vouchers?

No. Section 8 vouchers can be used anywhere there is a Public Housing Agency (PHA) present, the 50 states have PHA offices.

How does the PHA determine rent amount and are there limitations?

PHA determines rent amount for households based on the size of the household and the fair market rent of the area. Fair market rent is the rent estimate for a unit with a certain number of bedrooms in a particular area.

Can you appeal if your application for housing assistance was rejected?

Yes, you can! As a general rule, you must receive a denial letter indicating the reason your application was denied, along with proof.

How much does PHA communicate with the landlord?

The PHA communicates with the landlord during property inspections. There will also be communications between the PHA and the landlord when changes are made to the lease agreement such as an increase in rent. The landlord may also contact the PHA to report section-8 tenants. 


  • I’m going to be homeless on November 15 and can’t afford to move or rent I’m a Air Force veteran and I am not employed I do little jobs to make money for food I need help if there is anything that can help me get a place to live I would like to know thanks

    • Joseph, thanks for your comments and for your service. Sorry to hear about your situation with housing. In our experience we see HUD work with Veterans who are in need of housing through local PHA office. You can read more about the steps to section 8 housing choice vouchers by reading this article The Steps to Section 8

      STEP 1, We think you should contact your local Public Housing Agency to learn more about what housing waitlists are open in your area. You could do a internet search “PHA offices near me” and contact your local office.
      STEP 2, be persistent, qualifying for hosing does take time but with effort it is possible to receive the help you need.
      STEP 3, You can use this link to learn more about VA supportive housing (VASH)

  • Thank you for your helpful information. I would love to apply for section 8 but I cannot find where to fill out the application, I would be so grateful if you can send me a link for the application. Thank you

    • Dana, thanks for your comment! That is a great comment and one we think we answered in this article. The Steps to Section 8

      You will need to contact your local Housing authority. You can do so by clicking HERE for HUD’s database of local housing authorities.

    • Hi Kathryn, no this is not a section 8 voucher, this is just our opinion where to find one and the best ways to apply, in fact we think that this article will benefit you if you are looking to apply for section 8 housing choice vouchers, The Steps to Section 8

  • Hi
    I am deaf and retired I would like to be eligible for a Section 8 voucher? How can I be eligible for a Section 8 voucher? Thank you

  • I would be happy to apply for section 8 but I can’t find where to apply. Could you send me the link where I’m supposed to apply?

    • Hi Ashlyn, Unfortunately applying for section 8 isn’t that easy. There isn’t one application to fill out. But what you can do is contact your local public housing agency to get an application. This article will help you find your local housing authority or agency. It will also help you understand the important steps to take with the section 8 application. The Steps to Section 8

  • I would love to apply for section8 but l cannot find where to fill out application l would be graceful if you can send me a link for application. Thank you

    • Hello Michael, Thank you for your comment. You can find a link to the section 8 application on “>HERE Scroll down to “contact you PHA section” and click the link. Then use HUD’s PHA database to select your state. You will then be provided with a list of housing authorities in your state.
      Select the housing authority nearest to you or nearest to the area you wish to reside in. You will be able to find an Section 8 or housing choice voucher application on your local Housing Authority Website. We hope this helps!

    • Hello Zineb, Thank you for your comment. We have written an article that will walk you through the steps of applying for Section 8 in your area. Click Here to read more about the steps of applying for section 8, we think this article will help you on your journey to find housing assistance:)

  • Hi my name is DeAngelo Wheeler and I’m writing today because I have never had a break in life and really could use this program. I’m not a bad person and just need a chance. There’s way too .any people abusing this opportunity and i give u my word I’m not one of those so if I’m blessed with this program I thank u in advance.
    Sincerely, DeAngelo Wheeler

    • Hi DeAngelo, thank you for your comment. You certainly sound like a good person. Just to make sure you are aware, we are not a government agency, or associated with them. We cannot give you access to any assistance program. You will need to contact your local HUD and other housing agencies to get applications and find out more.

      What we do is try to clarify the requirements of these programs and help people with free advice on what we think is the best way to apply and qualify for these assistance programs. I think you read our articles articles and Applying for Public Housing Help. they would help you understand more about how to apply for common housing programs in your area. We hope this helps you!

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