What is Section 8 Housing?

Section 8 housing can be confusing for some, so we have tried our best to write an article that will answer any questions you may have and help guide you through the process. We have broken up the article into sections so it may be easier for you to navigate. At the end of the page, press NEXT to continue reading about Section 8.

Formally known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 is a program that provides housing assistance to low-income families, senior citizens and people with disabilities. This program is financed by the Federal government and fulfilled by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Section 8 Voucher Program provides these vouchers so families are able to live in homes with low monthly rent, that are safe and clean. The voucher covers most of the rent and the tenant pays the difference.

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Tenant Based or Project Based Voucher

There are two types of housing vouchers in the Section 8 program. Since both are part of the Section 8 program, the eligibility requirements are the same. You only need to apply to one of these 2 voucher options, because you will be contacted by your PHA with availability for whichever comes first. The two types of housing vouchers are:

Tenant based vouchers: These vouchers stay with the family and allow you to find and choose where you want to live. With this type of voucher, you may relocate without losing your subsidy benefits.

Project based vouchers: These vouchers stay with the rental property, which means that you will lose your subsidy benefits if you decide to move out of the project-based rental property.

Family Status:

Section 8 considers a “family” or “household” as the people living together under the same housing voucher. Your family can be just you, or it could be multiple people who don’t necessarily have to be related by blood or law. The HUD doesn’t discriminate against gender identity or sexual orientation.

The term “household” is defined by the HUD as follows:

  • Displaced Family: A family that has been forcefully displaced from their home because of natural disaster that severely damaged the home or as result of government action.

  • Disabled Family: A family who’s head or co-head of household is impaired, be it mentally, emotionally or physically.

  • Elderly Family: A family who’s head or co-head of household is 65 years old or older

  • Near-elderly Family: A family who’s head or co-head of household is 50 years old or older, but no more than 62 years old.

Section 8 Eligibility Requirements

There are a few requirements for you to be eligible for a Section 8 housing voucher. First, we’ll break it down to make it easier for you to figure out if you qualify for Section 8 and if it’s the right program for you.

Choice of Housing

A very important step is to figure out where you would like to live. Each area has their own Public Housing Authority with different requirements and you want to make sure you fit these beforehand. Contacting the PHA of the area you’re interested in living and checking out their specific requirements is a great first step.

Income Limit Guidelines

Each year, the HUD calculates the income limits based on the percentage of the area’s median income level. Median income is the average income in a specific area, meaning that half of the households in the area are above this median income and the other half are below. To be eligible for Section 8, your household income must fall below the area’s median income to be eligible.

Real estate agent with house model and keys

Household Income

Your household income is the total income of every person that will be living under the same housing voucher. The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program divides income limits into 3 categories and these are calculated using the area’s median income level. Every area has different median income levels. To find out the income limit of different household sizes in different areas press HERE. This can help you figure out which of the 3 categories you belong to in the specific area you are interested in living. These 3 categories are:

  • Low income: 80% of the area’s median income level

  • Very low income: 50% of the area’s median income level

  • Extremely low income: 30% of the area’s median income level

Citizenship Status

You must be a US citizen or an eligible immigrant to apply for Section 8. If you would like to know if you are an eligible immigrant, the HUD has a booklet with more information that might help you figure out if you qualify for the Section 8 Voucher program. To view this booklet, click HERE. US citizens are required to present documents for every family member, including themselves, that verify citizenship and must sign a document that confirms that each of you are US citizens.

If you’re an immigrant, you will have to provide INS documentation that proves your immigration status as well as permission for the HUD to verify this information. You will also be required to sign a document stating your eligibility. Households that have a mix of both eligible and non-eligible individuals will still be able to receive a housing voucher, but will only receive a percentage depending on the number of eligible individuals in the household.

Can College Students Receive Section 8 Vouchers?

College students don’t usually qualify for Section 8, but there are certain exceptions that may allow you to qualify. You may qualify for a Section 8 voucher if you:

  • Are 24 years old or older

  • Were under protection of the court until you were 18

  • Were an orphan

  • Are a veteran

  • Are currently on active duty

  • Are a grad student with a profession

  • Are married

  • Have legal dependents, other than your spouse

How to Find an Area’s Median Income

To calculate an area’s median income level, you add the income of every member of the household, before taxes. This number is your gross household income. After this, the HUD compares your household income in relation to household members to a chart to find the AMI. Households that have an income of 50% or less than the median they will count the household as part of the 25% low-income set-aside.

If you would like to know what percent your income is to the area’s median income, the HUD has a tool that can help. Press HERE, then simply select if you are searching for Individual income limits or family income limits, then your city, state and county. Once you’re finished, press “View State Calculations” and you should get a list of that area’s median income limits.

Social Security Number

A social security number is a requirement to qualify for a Section 8 voucher. At least one of the members of your household must have a Social Security number. If none of the members of your household has a social security number, you may still qualify for a housing voucher, but you will not receive the complete amount.

Background Check

If you or a member of your household has a criminal record you may still qualify for a Section 8 Housing voucher. Since each PHA has their own set of rules, you should contact the PHA where you applied and ask for their policy on criminal history. There are certain crimes that can automatically disqualify you from the Section 8 Housing Voucher program, such as:

  • If you or a member of your household has been found guilty of the manufacturing of methamphetamine (Meth) in any federal assisted housing

  • If you or a member of your household is a lifelong sex offender

  • If you or a member of your household has been evicted previously for any situation related to drugs