We have written this article to help give our readers a better understanding of what a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher is and the key steps on how to apply.
We found that knowing what steps to take before you apply can help with the Section 8 voucher application process. We have written this article based on our experience, to give a thorough explanation of what the whole Section 8 process involves.
What is a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher?
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is a federal government subsidized housing assistance program. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, otherwise known as HUD, sets guidelines for the program at the federal level. States then administer the programs to eligible applicants through local Public Housing Agency offices. Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers differ from other rental assistance programs like Public Housing, in giving recipients the ability to select housing of their choosing in the private sector.
Qualifying for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher requires you to meet certain eligibility requirements. You will need to contact your local PHA office, fill out and send in an application for the voucher. You will likely be placed on a waitlist and then once approved, you will be expected to find a home and landlord that suits the Section 8 standards and accepts the vouchers. Keep reading to learn more about important steps to take when applying for Section 8.
What to Know Before Applying for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher
Many of our readers ask that we send them a link to a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher application. Please be aware that you must apply for Section 8 through you local HUD approved Public Housing Agency (PHA). Each PHA office will manage housing vouchers under the guidelines of HUD but according to their individual policies, procedures and available resources. Unfortunately there is no general Section 8 application that can be provided for all that are interested in applying.
You can use this HUD PHA database to locate your nearest PHA Office by CLICKING HERE.
Select your state and then contact the PHA office in the location you wish to reside. Ask the PHA office for the Section 8 Housing Voucher Application.
Before diving into the application process for a Section 8 Housing Voucher, we have listed a few important steps to take so you are prepared for the process.
- What Area to Live in
It is essential that you first decide where you want to live so that you can find out what the Section 8 requirements of that area are and know if you meet them. The house you choose to live in doesn’t necessarily have to be in your current town.
However, you should be aware that the rules around section 8 differ according to location, so you should find the local housing agencies in charge of your neighborhood of interest and make inquiries.
- Your Household Income
Your family could be made up of just one or a group of people. Whichever the case may be, your household is expected to meet a specific income limit.
The income limit is grouped into three categories – extremely low-income, very low-income, and low income. HUD gives more priority to extremely low-income earners and very low-income earners, while low-income earners are usually at the bottom of the list.
You can find out the income limit of different household sizes here according to location, to help you know which category you fall under or if you meet the income requirements at all.
Ideally, your household’s income should not be more than eighty percent of the average median income in a specific area and must include all income earned with a few exceptions.
- Citizenship Status
To qualify for a section 8 housing choice voucher, you have to be a citizen of the U.S or an eligible immigrant. Exhibit 5-1 in HUD’s Section 8 voucher book gives detailed information to help immigrants determine if they qualify for the program.
If you’re a U.S citizen, you will be required to sign a declaration form confirming that you and everyone in your household are citizens of the country. You and your family will also be required to present documents to verify your citizenship.
As for immigrants, you will be required to sign a declaration stating your eligibility and provide INS documents to prove your immigration status, along with permission for them to verify your information.
If your household comprises of a mix of eligible and non-eligible members in terms of citizenship and immigration, you can still obtain a section 8 voucher.
However, the amount you will receive in your voucher will be based on the percentage of eligible family members.
- Criminal History
HUD prefers participants of all affordable housing programs to have a clean criminal record; nevertheless, you may still be eligible for a section 8 voucher if you have a felony or you’re on parole.
Although all housing agency carry out background checks on their applicants, different rules apply. To be sure of your eligibility, if you have a criminal record, contact the housing agency in your area of interest to be sure of your chances.
Bear in mind that you are automatically disqualified for a section 8 voucher if you or a member of your household
- Has been convicted of producing methamphetamine in any federally assisted housing,
- Is a registered lifelong sex offender,
- Or has been evicted in the past for reasons relating to drugs.
How to Apply for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher
Application for Section 8 voucher can be obtained through different means, depending on the instructions given by the housing agency, and you are required to follow every instruction thoroughly.
Applicants unable to fill applications themselves due to age, disability, or any other accepted reasons can have a social worker complete it for them.
Know that section 8 applications do not require any fees! Avoid any service asking for fees to fill out an application, they are scams.
Due to the vast number of people applying for section 8 vouchers in 2020 and the limited resources that Housing Agencies have, it’s likely that all applicants will be placed on a waiting list.
Below, we’ve provided information on the processes involved in getting on the waiting list.
- How to Get a Section 8 Application by Contacting a PHA
The first thing to do when applying for Section 8 is to sign up to receive alerts on open waitlists. Not all, but many housing agencies provide applicants with their own alert systems.
If your local housing agencies gives alerts of any kind, we highly suggest that you sign up to receive these with your email address and contact information that you can easily be reached at.
If you choose to obtain information on waitlists directly from housing agencies, you must first contact them. The housing agency you contact must be from the area you hope to move into.
Housing agencies will also provide you with information on how to apply to waitlists, whether in person, online, or by mail. We advise that you apply to multiple waitlists if possible and you can be flexible with where you choose to reside.
If your need for housing assistance is urgent, we suggest rather than just applying for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, you may also want to apply to waitlists for Public housing or project based housing.
- Where to Contact a PHA
You can find the contact information of different Public Housing Agencies through HUD’s PHA database here. Read the list of PHA’s near to your and contact the PHA office where you wish to reside. Contact them by phone, email or see if the name of the PHA office has a website by performing a google search.
Many PHA’s have websites you can visit to get more information about available housing programs, including their open waitlists, phone number, email, fax, and office address.
Contact them through whichever means you prefer.
- How to File an Online Section 8 Application
The method of filing a section 8 application ideally depends on the instructions given by the housing agency.
You may be requested to fill the form online, send your completed application through mail, or complete your application in person at a PHA office.
To fill an application online, you must have a valid email address. Some applications may also require you to create an account through an online portal.
Your email address is crucial, as you will receive updates about your application through this means. Remember to keep your account login information safe.
For those who do not have access to the internet, you could use a friend’s or family member’s computer or one at a local library.
You may also find computer labs on the premises of housing agencies.
- How to File a Mail-In Section 8 Application
If you’re required to file your application through mail or have the option to, you should do so using a mailing address you have easy access to.
For applicants who move around a lot or don’t have a home, you should make use of a mailing address belonging to someone to trust.
You could provide the housing agency with the mailing address of your friend or family member who could easily contact you when you receive a mail.
Another option is to use the mailing address of local shelters and churches if you’re permitted.
- How to File an In-Person Section 8 Application
The in-person application may not be ideal for applicants who live far from where they are applying.
If you’re expected to fill your application in person, and you can’t meet up due to distance, you should contact the housing agency in charge to explain your situation and hope for an exception.
- How to Complete the Section 8 Application
Depending on the housing agency, the length of section 8 application forms may vary. In general, the forms request basic information like name, date of birth, social security number, and gross household income.
The total income does not include money earned by members below 18 years of age.
Other information often required from applicants are mailing address or email, phone number of the applicant, housing history, criminal history, and sometimes, confirmation of preferences.
You must complete the form following the given instructions. You may be required to fill all sections or only specific sections of the application.
If you fail to follow instructions, they may either return your application for correction or disqualify you immediately.
Also, make sure you submit your application following the instructions of the housing office and in time, or your application will be terminated.
What to do After Getting on a Waiting List
Being on a section 8 waiting list requires more than just waiting. There are a couple of other things you need to do to avoid getting disqualified, and they are as follows:
- Check Email and Mail for Notifications From Housing Agency
Public Housing Agencies send reminder messages to applicants once in a while to find out if they are still interested in the program, so endeavor to check your mail and email regularly.
This is the reason you need to use a contact address you can easily access.
The process of sending reminder messages serves as a means of sorting people out. If you fail to respond to any of the reminder messages sent for any reason, your application will be terminated.
- Be Available for Housing Interviews or Briefings
Section 8 vouchers are only handed to applicants as they are made available to the housing agency, there is no way to predict how long it would take to receive one.
However, when you get to the top of the list, the housing agency will invite you for an eligibility interview also known as a housing briefing before receiving you Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher.
You must be available for your housing interview, or your application will be terminated.
You may also be required to provide additional documents such as proof of income, photo ID, social security cards, and birth certificates for all adult household members.
If you miss the scheduled date for your interview due to error reasons on the part of the housing office like an incorrect mailing address or you fail to respond due to a disability, you may be reconsidered.
Again making sure you have access to your email, phone number and mail will help make sure you are aware and available for your housing interview/briefing. Being in touch with your PHA will also help you avoid missing important updates.
- Use Accurate Information
The importance of accurate information during a section 8 application cannot be overemphasized. Ensure your contact information is accurate and up to date, or you would miss emails and mails and risk getting terminated.
- Apply for Multiple Areas Waitlist and Other Types of Housing
No one says you have to put all your hopes on one affordable housing program or waitlist application. Getting to the top of a waitlist could take months or even years unless you have a particular condition.
Don’t hesitate to apply for other waitlists and types of housing assistance in your area if you are low-income and in need of rental assistance, doing so may increase your chances of getting the help you need.
- What Happens When Your Application Reaches the Top of the Waitlist?
When your application reaches the top of the waitlist, the housing agency will request for an eligibility interview, where you will be given an overview of how the program operates.
The number of household members required to attend the interview depends on the housing agency.
Ensure you arrive at the given location early and with all the necessary documents. Even if you reside far from the location, you will still be required to attend at least one interview, so plan accordingly.
Tips on Finding Section 8 Apartment Once Approved
Section 8 allows you to live in a private house of your choice, as long as the property meets the program’s standards and accepts Section 8 vouchers. I’ve provided a few tips below to help you find a suitable section 8 apartment.
- How to Locate a Section 8 Apartment After Being Approved
When locating a section 8 apartment, you must look out for houses that qualify for the program. Ideally, a section 8 unit must meet the following requirements:
- Must not charge rent beyond the payment standards. To find the payment standards for your neighborhood, you can contact the housing agency for information.
- Must have all units inspected and approved by the PHA.
- Must accept section 8 vouchers. In areas where landlords have the option to accept or reject tenants with section 8 vouchers, you must find a landlord that agrees to receive your section 8 voucher.
You can use your section 8 voucher on any housing property excluding college or school dormitories, public or private institution units, units that already provide rental subsidies such as Section 202 and Section 811.
- Search Online Through the Website of Your Housing Agency or Other Online Sources
Public Housing Agencies with websites often provide unit listings also. Apart from the housing Agencies site, there are other platforms with directories of affordable housing units such as Zillow, Trulia, and Affordable Housing Online.
While going through unit listings on these platforms, search for those with the ‘HCV Welcome’ label, where HCV stands for Housing Choice Voucher. Click on the unit of choice to view details about the property and contact information of the owner.
According to the platform used, you may be required to submit an online form or contact the property owner yourself.
- Ask the Housing Agency About Available Section 8 Landlords
Another way to find eligible section 8 apartments is to ask the housing agency that manage your voucher. They may have a list of properties that accept section 8 vouchers to make the search process easier for you.
- Contact Landlords Directly
You can either submit an online form on the community listings website, contact the landlords directly, or in some cases, do both.
It’s always best to get information about an apartment directly from the landlord because then you can ask all the necessary questions and be sure they really accept section 8 vouchers.
In conclusion, the steps to take in acquiring a section 8 voucher are pretty simple and can be summarized into three major steps as follows:
- Check how eligible you are in terms of income and family size, citizenship and immigration status, and criminal history.
- Contact the PHA to file your application through the instructed means, which could be in person, online, or through the mail.
- Complete the application form and submit as instructed and in time.
- Wait for a while and ensure you’re available for interviews while checking your mails and emails regularly and updating your contact information when necessary.
- Attend the interview when called, and carry along all necessary documents.
- Find your choice of a house that meets the payment standards, has been approved by the housing agency and accepts section 8 vouchers, especially in areas where it is optional for landlords.
Now that you have enough information about all the steps involved in section 8, you should have a smooth application process. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.
Section 8 Moving Rules & Requirements
Moving is usually a bit of a headache, and people with rental assistance, such as Section 8, might be afraid to do so out of fear of losing the much needed help. Fortunately, you can move to any state you like that has a Section 8 voucher program and transfer your voucher along with you! It’s important that you give your landlord proper notice, which is at least 30 days before you plan on moving out. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can not end a lease early or break any rules on your lease agreement if you choose to move because the PHA might withhold your voucher until any situation that comes up is resolved.
Moving to a place in the same jurisdiction you currently reside is fairly simple and not much paperwork is required. The Public Housing Authority will inspect the new home to see if it follows the PHA’s Quality Housing Standards and if it is approved you will be given a new voucher to be signed by yourself and your new landlord. Simple as that!
The process is a bit longer if you’re moving to another jurisdiction. The PHA often refers to this process as portability. Before deciding where you want to move, it’s important you make sure that the area you’re moving to has a Section 8 voucher program. As soon as you decide to move to another jurisdiction, you must inform your PHA so they may start gathering your paperwork and information they will need to provide your new PHA. Processing all the documents required takes time, so it’s important you inform them as early as possible, avoiding a lapse in your Section 8 voucher coverage.
Some Public Housing Authorities require specific actions before your move, so you should contact the PHA office where you’re planning to move and ask if they require any additional actions on your part, like for example, if you’re new to the Section 8 voucher program and started receiving vouchers less than 12 months ago you must stay in the same jurisdiction where you applied to for the full 12 month period or you will be at risk of temporarily losing your voucher.
As always, the most important step to Section 8 is to keep in contact with them, make sure your personal and contact information is up to date and inform them of any changes.
What to know before applying for a section-8 housing voucher
Before diving into the application process for a section-8 housing voucher you should consider your choice of housing, household income, citizenship status, criminal history.
What to do after getting on a waiting list
Being on a section 8 waiting list requires more than just waiting. There are a couple of other things you need to do to avoid getting denied. Check email and mail for notifications from housing agencies. Be available for housing interviews. Use accurate information.