Housing Choice Voucher
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8) provides tenant-based assistance, in the form of a voucher, to low-income families, seniors and persons with disabilities for rental units chosen by the tenant in the private market. The Housing Authority provides payments directly to participating property owners to offset the cost difference between tenant payments and unit rent. Residents in HHA Public Housing communities may also be eligible for voucher assistance through the HHA Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
Program applicants choose from a variety of housing options, ranging from apartments, duplexes, single-family homes to townhomes. Tenants can find available units by visiting Socialserve and MyApartmentMap.
In order to assist you with your housing decision, we have provided a link to the City of Houston Super Neighborhood page. There you can find information regarding demographics, land use and other useful information to help you make the best choice possible for you and your family. Below is a map that shows where each neighborhood is located. Click here to learn more about super neighborhoods and to view the recognized list of super neighborhoods.
Families with vouchers generally pay between 30 to 40 percent of their annual income for rent. Rent must be reasonable compared with similar unassisted units in the area, and the property must meet HUD’s Section 8 Housing Quality Standards. All Section 8 program rules and policies can be found in the Administrative Plan.
Current participants in the Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing Program may choose to participate in the Housing Authority’s Family Self Sufficiency Program, which offers employment and other case-managed services designed to promote economic self-sufficiency.
Services offered through the FSS Program may range from job training to child-care and transportation assistance. FSS participants may also take advantage of homeownership counseling, including the establishment of a family escrow account.
For your convenience, we have made some common housing forms available for your use. Click here to view or download the forms.
How to view the Move Briefing Video:
This link is only available for Housing Choice Voucher participants that have been approved to move. Once a participant has been approved, their account is only active for seven days. The domain is Housingforhouston. The username is always the client’s email address.
Once your email has been as been link to this account, you will not be able to change it online. Password is always the client number (try it with and without the leading 0s).
If you have any questions, please call 713-260-0600.
If you have not been approved, DO NOT attempt to create an account, as it will delay your ability to complete the move briefing.
Vouchers can help the poor find homes. But landlords often won’t accept them.
When Tisha Guthrie learned in 2009 that she’d received a housing voucher that would help with her rent in Baltimore, she was excited. She’d joined the waiting list five years prior, when she became unable to work full-time due to serious health issues (she received both kidney and pancreas transplants, and is also legally blind).
Yet Guthrie, now 45 years old, found that none of the apartments where she applied would accept her voucher. She inquired at nearly 20 buildings that advertised apartments in her price range. But whenever she mentioned her voucher, landlords said they didn’t take them, or that they didn’t have any apartments available.
“You start to feel defeated,” Guthrie told me. “You feel you’re being stigmatized based solely on having this form of rental payment.” She searched for a year before she finally found a landlord who would take her voucher.
Guthrie’s experience is all too common. Federally funded vouchers like hers (called housing choice vouchers) provided more than 2.2 million households and 5 million people with rental assistance in 2018. The vouchers help make housing affordable for low-income individuals: Voucher holders pay 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities, while the government pays the remainder (up to the maximum allowable amount).
Yet in major cities from Los Angeles to New York City to Philadelphia to Chicago — and in many smaller ones, too — voucher holders often encounter landlords who refuse to take them or find other ways to avoid renting to them, including falsely claiming that they have no available apartments.
In response, states and cities have passed legislation known as “source-of-income laws,” which ban landlords from discriminating against people just because they’re using a voucher. Last year, Guthrie joined advocacy groups pushing for a source-of-income law in Baltimore, testifying about her experience and writing an op-ed. In 2019, the city passed such a law, albeit with a limitation that advocates opposed.
At the same time, it’s become clear that these laws are not enough. In some places, discrimination against voucher holders remains common, even with source-of-income laws on the books. Advocates argue that greater enforcement is needed, along with further adjustments to put voucher amounts more in line with fair market rents. And in cities with tight rental markets, they are pushing for increased construction of affordable housing.
A strong body of research shows that housing vouchers help prevent homelessness, as well as increase long-term health and economic outcomes of children in low-income families. Vouchers are of huge importance to millions of people, but discrimination against people who use them threatens to thwart the progress that’s been made in housing the most vulnerable among us.
Housing vouchers, explained
Federally supported vouchers were introduced with the Section 8 program in 1974. By the late ‘90s, housing vouchers comprised the largest low-income housing assistance program.
In 2018, 1.2 million households used Section 8 project-based vouchers (used in specific housing developments), and 2.2 million households used housing choice vouchers (“portable” vouchers that can be used for renting apartments in the private market). Other types of rental assistance support specific demographic groups: For example, the HUD-VASH program was created in the early 1990s to subsidize housing for homeless veterans. Many cities and states also fund their own subsidized housing programs.
To determine eligibility for federally funded vouchers, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sets income limits, which are based on estimates of median incomes and fair market rents in the area. For housing choice vouchers, 75 percent of recipients must be “extremely low-income,” which means their earnings do not exceed 30 percent of the area’s median income or the federal poverty line, whichever is higher. Unlike other federal poverty-alleviation efforts — like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known informally as food stamps) — housing vouchers are not considered an entitlement, and only a quarter of eligible households end up receiving federal rental assistance.
When someone receives a housing choice voucher, they have limited time (usually between 60 and 120 days, though extensions are sometimes possible) to find an apartment, after which they pay 30 percent of their income toward the rent (or a maximum amount of $50 per month, if they do not have any income). Local public-housing agencies administer the voucher programs, inspect apartments to make sure they meet minimum standards, and pay rent directly to landlords.
Multiple randomized trials have shown that housing voucher programs really do benefit the people who use them. For example, a HUD-funded study dubbed “Family Options,” by researchers at Abt Associates in partnership with Vanderbilt University, found that vouchers reduced the rate of homelessness or “doubling up” with other households by 18 percent, compared with a rate of 35 percent for the control group.
A separate HUD-funded study, called the “Moving to Opportunity” project, found significant benefits for families that relocated to lower-poverty neighborhoods with the help of vouchers, including better health, higher incomes, and increased rates of college attendance for children whose families moved before they were 13.
Despite their effectiveness at preventing homelessness and increasing housing stability, voucher programs are falling short of their promise. Though originally conceived as a way to help low-income households (disproportionately comprised of people of color) access higher-opportunity neighborhoods, that has proven to be the exception rather than the rule. Families that use housing choice vouchers are often concentrated in poor neighborhoods. For example, a recent study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that just 14 percent of metro-area families with children living in low-poverty neighborhoods used housing choice vouchers.
Another problem is that many voucher holders struggle to find a landlord willing to accept them. A HUD study published in 2001, for example, found that roughly 70 percent of voucher holders had succeeded in renting an apartment, though the average was closer to 50 percent in cities like New York and Los Angeles. More recentstudies have found comparably low success rates of 50 to 60 percent.
Though it’s likely not the sole cause, there’s strong evidence indicating that landlord discrimination contributes to both problems.
Landlords discriminate against people who use vouchers
Firsthand accounts from many voucher holders illustrate the hurdles they face when searching for an apartment.
In New York City, I spoke with half a dozen voucher holders who have either been unable to find an apartment after an extensive search, or who did so only after many months (in some cases, years) of looking.
Forty-five-year-old Sofia (who asked to be identified by her first name only) lives with two of her children in a shelter. Sofia, who is unable to work due to recent debilitating health problems and surgeries, received a city-funded voucher in early June. But after inquiring about dozens of apartments she found online, she said brokers and landlords repeatedly told her they didn’t have any apartments available, or that they’d get back to her later.
Sofia never heard from them again.
After five years of unstable housing, during which she and her children stayed with family or in shelters, Sofia said she was hopeful the voucher would help them move into their own place. But after months of searching, she told me, “It’s been really, really hard and so stressful, calling all these brokers and landlords, and it was a big load on me, on top of the load that I’m already dragging.” Hers isn’t the only such story I heard.
Systematic research corroborates these firsthand accounts. In 2018, the Urban Institute conducted tests by calling thousands of landlords in five cities who were listing voucher-affordable apartments. In three of the cities — Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Fort Worth, Texas — over two-thirds of landlords said they would refuse to accept vouchers. (In New York City, though it’s clear discrimination is present, there’s little recent data available on the frequency of landlord refusal or the success rates of finding housing using vouchers.)
In response to the problem, 13 states (plus Washington, DC) and more than 50 cities and counties throughout the US have passed source-of-income laws requiring landlords to treat voucher holders the same as they would other applicants. Landlords are also prohibited from turning down voucher holders based on their source of payment.
However, there are still many areas that haven’t passed such laws. The Poverty and Race Research Action Council estimates that as of November 2019, only about half of voucher holders are covered by source-of-income laws. Meanwhile, both Texas and Indiana have passed legislation to prevent jurisdictions in their states from creating their own source-of-income laws. At the federal level, several bills banning voucher discrimination have been introduced, but none have passed.
There is evidence that source-of-income laws help voucher holders find apartments: A study comparing rates before and after a source-of-income law went into effect found significant increases in voucher use, ranging between 4 and 11 percentage points.
Yet advocates argue that more is needed. Research suggests source-of-income laws have only a modest impact on moving households to low-poverty areas. And in some areas, particularly low-poverty neighborhoods, landlords often continue to refuse vouchers despite the presence of such laws.
For example, in Philadelphia, the Urban Institute’s study found that 67 percent of landlords with eligible apartments refused to rent to voucher holders, regardless of legal protections in place. The rate was even higher in low-poverty neighborhoods. There’s evidence that voucher discrimination is exacerbated by racial discrimination, too: In a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 80 percent of black voucher holders reported that landlords in low-poverty areas would not accept vouchers, compared with 57 percent of voucher holders from other racial groups.
How to fight voucher discrimination
One way to improve the situation is straightforward enough: better enforcement of source-of-income laws.
Some cities are starting to take a more active role in this. For example, the NYC Department of Social Services has brought several lawsuits against large landlords for voucher discrimination.
In 2018, NYC’s Commission for Human Rights formed a new unit to help fight income discrimination, and has since received over 800 complaints from voucher holders. The unit files formal complaints against landlords; its director, Stephanie Rudolph, said another top priority is intervening quickly, enabling voucher holders to move into buildings that had initially ignored them or turned them away. (Advocates in New York City who have praised the work of CCHR are pushing the city to provide greater funding for the unit, which currently has only five members.)
Another key part of improving voucher programs is assisting voucher holders in their search and documenting discrimination, said Annie Carforo, campaign manager at Neighbors Together, a nonprofit organization that assists low-income New Yorkers. Carforo has talked to hundreds of people — many of them living in city shelters — who struggle to find apartments that will accept their vouchers and who have been given little, if any, assistance in their search. In some cases, people are unaware of the laws prohibiting voucher discrimination. “It’s heartbreaking to meet people who have been looking for housing for two years [using vouchers], and who never knew it was illegal for landlords to treat them this way,” Carforo said.
Investing in a greater level of assistance for voucher holders is also a major component of Creating Moves to Opportunity, an initiative in Seattle and surrounding suburbs that helps families with housing choice vouchers relocate to high-opportunity neighborhoods. As Dylan Matthews recently reported for Vox, a randomized study of the program found big results: 54 percent of families in the treatment group that received counseling moved to a high-opportunity area, compared with 14 percent of families in the control group (which had received vouchers only).
In some areas, improving the voucher system could also involve improving the voucher-acceptance process for landlords. Landlords in some cities have pushed back on source-of-income laws, and a recent qualitative study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University showed that some landlords are worried about losing money if they accept vouchers, due to inspections and other kinds of administrative delays. The researchers suggest that making the process more efficient could help address landlord concerns.
Another approach may be increasing landlord incentives, such as bonuses and tax breaks, which a few states and cities already offer. In addition, the Urban Institute recommends greater investment in actively recruiting landlords to participate in voucher programs, particularly in low-poverty neighborhoods.
The vouchers themselves could use improvements, too. In some cases, the lack of housing choice may be caused in part by voucher amounts that are not properly calibrated to local rents. Voucher amounts have typically been set by median rents in a large area (such as a metro area), but in recent years, there’s been a shift toward calculating median rents within smaller geographic areas (such as zip codes).
Following a lawsuit, Dallas was the first to try this approach, which led to a greater use of vouchers in low-poverty neighborhoods. After studying the approach in five other pilot areas, HUD shifted to the new way of calculating median rent (called “small area fair market rent”) for 24 metro areas, and other housing agencies can decide to make the change voluntarily. (Though promising, it’s still too early to tell how much this policy shift will help increase mobility on a larger scale.)
No one solution to the problem
But one of the challenges in addressing voucher discrimination — and, more broadly, our housing crisis — is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. As Andrew Aurand, vice president for research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told me, “Different housing markets have different needs.”
In some places, he said, it’s clear there needs to be an increase in affordable housing alongside improvements to the voucher program. Many advocates in New York City, including those working to address rising homelessness, agree.
“We need to be actually thinking about expanding the supply of affordable apartments, instead of just going after an extremely scarce resource with vouchers,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy analyst at the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City. The Coalition is pushing the city to dedicate 10 percent of new affordable apartments (out of the 300,000 planned by 2026) to currently homeless people, many of whom have vouchers they haven’t been able to use.
But Aurand notes that in other parts of the country, the shortage in affordable housing is less severe — the issue is that extremely low-income households cannot afford to pay even relatively low rents. In those cases, Aurand said, it would be effective to increase voucher funding. Given that only a quarter of eligible low-income households receive vouchers now, there’s a lot of room for expansion. (Several presidential candidates have announced housing proposals that would fully fund federal vouchers for all eligible households, as would a recently introduced Senate bill.)
Improving the voucher system, increasing access to affordable housing, and giving households more choice in where they live would help fulfill the original promise of housing vouchers. Without stable housing, and especially when experiencing homelessness (as half a million people do on any given day), it is extremely difficult for people to stay afloat.
After years of moving from place to place and staying in shelters, “I’m walking through mud,” Sofia told me. She is still searching, hoping her family will find a home using their voucher. That we make it so hard for people like Sofia is an indictment of a system ostensibly meant to help her.
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Find Affordable Rental Housing
Learn about government programs that help low-income people find affordable rental housing. Each of the programs - subsidized housing, public housing, and housing choice vouchers - is different. Get the details on how they work, who is eligible, and how to apply.
Find Affordable Rental Housing
People with low income Low Income: a total family income that’s no more than the Section 8 low-income limit established by HUD. Individuals are considered one-person families., seniors Senior: for housing benefit eligibility purposes, a person who is 62 or older., and people with disabilities Person with a Disability: a person whose physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as eating or walking. may qualify for help from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to get affordable rental housing. HUD doesn't own rental property. It gives money to states and building owners, who in turn provide low-income housing opportunities.
Get Personalized Help with Your Search
Find a HUD-approved housing counselor in your area online or call 1-800-569-4287 to find a local housing counseling agency Housing Counseling Agency: an organization with experts who provide advice on buying a home, renting, avoiding mortgage default (missing a payment) and foreclosure, and credit issues.. The counselor may be from a non-profit organization approved to offer advice on housing assistance.
Search by Type of Program
There are three main types of affordable rental housing that are supported by HUD:
- Privately owned, subsidized housing in which landlords are paid by the government to offer reduced rents to low-income tenants. Search for an apartment and apply directly at the rental management office.
- Public Housing provides affordable rental houses or apartments for low-income families, people who are elderly, and people with disabilities. To apply, contact a public housing agency in your state.
- Housing Choice Voucher Program in which you find a rental property yourself, and use the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent. To apply, contact a public housing agency in your state.
If you have trouble contacting your local public housing agency, contact your local HUD field office for help.
If you're a landlord, learn how you can participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
COVID-19 Rental Assistance
The government COVID-19 eviction moratorium has ended. Landlords now have the ability to evict renters who are not able to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a renter or as a landlord, government programs can help you with rent money and advice for your situation.
Emergency Rental Assistance Program for Renters and Landlords
Renters and landlords, use the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) database from the Treasury Department to find rental assistance from state, local, territorial, and tribal programs.
Get Advice for Renters from a Housing Counselor
Learn How to Avoid Eviction as a Renter
Learn how to avoid eviction and how to make a payment plan with your landlord.
Find Emergency Housing
If you are going to be evicted and need emergency housing, call 211 for local housing help or search using HUD's Find Shelter tool.
Recover Back Rent as a Landlord
Learn how to recover back rent and find out about mortgage forbearance for your property if you are a landlord.
Housing Choice Voucher Program (Formerly Section 8)
Find out how the Housing Choice Voucher Program can help you pay for rental housing. Get information about eligibility requirements, how you can apply, and where to file housing complaints.
Learn About the Housing Choice Voucher Program
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8) is a program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It helps families with a low income, seniors, and people with disabilities pay for rental housing.
You can find your own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments. Housing Choice vouchers can pay for all or part of the rent.
Housing Choice Voucher Eligibility
Your local public housing agency (PHA) decides if you are eligible for a Housing Choice voucher based on:
Your annual gross income
Whether you qualify as a family, a senior, or a person with a disability
U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status
Your family's size
Other local factors
In general, your family's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area.
Each state or city may have different eligibility rules for housing programs. Contact your local PHA to learn about your eligibility for Housing Choice vouchers.
How to Apply for a Housing Choice Voucher
To apply for a Housing Choice voucher, contact a public housing agency in your state. If you need more assistance, contact your local HUD office.
You will need to fill out a written application or have a representative of your local PHA help you.
The PHA representative will collect information on your family size, income, and assets.
The PHA will check this information with other local agencies, your employer, and your bank. This helps them decide if you qualify and how much assistance you'll get.
The amount of assistance you may get is adjusted so you can afford a moderately-priced rental in your area.
The housing you choose must meet health and safety standards before the PHA can approve the unit.
After you've been approved for a voucher and found a place to rent, the PHA will inspect the rental before you sign your lease. These inspections are performed so the PHA can be sure the property is worth the rental price.
Check the Status of Your Housing Choice Voucher Application
If you qualify for a Housing Choice voucher, the PHA will put your name on a waiting list. They will contact you when it's your turn to receive a voucher.
Get Help With Your Housing Choice Voucher Application
Since the demand for housing assistance is usually greater than the resources available, you may wait a long time to get on a list and to get a voucher.
Being approved for a voucher in one city or state does not guarantee you'll be approved somewhere else.
How to Get Help Paying Rent
If you need help paying your rent, contact your state housing finance agency or your local public housing agency office. You may qualify for government programs to get help with your rent payments.
Contact your state human or social service agency:
If you need immediate, emergency assistance
To find out what other help may be available for you locally
Even if you don't qualify for rental assistance through these agencies, they may be able to refer you to a community organization that can help. You may also search for and contact community or nonprofit organizations in your area. They may help you directly or offer you referral information.
Housing Assistance for Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers the HUD-VASH for homeless veterans. It combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services.
And a new VA program, the Shallow Subsidy initiative, offers a fixed rental subsidy to low-income vets for up to two years.
Housing Assistance for Seniors
The Eldercare Locator is a free service that can connect you with resources and programs designed to help seniors in your area.
Rural Housing Assistance
Local Rural Development (RD) offices can help rural residents through the Rural Housing Service.
Find out about public housing, including what it is, whether you're eligible, how to apply, and whom to contact if you have a complaint.
Learn About Public Housing
Public housing is state-owned, affordable rental houses or apartments. It's intended for families with low incomes, seniors, and people with disabilities. Found nationwide, public housing comes in all sizes and types, from single-family houses to high rise apartments. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers the program.
Since the demand for public housing is often larger than the amount of housing available to HUD and the local PHA, long waiting periods are common. A PHA may close its waiting list when there are more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future.
Public Housing Eligibility
Your local public housing agency (PHA) will determine your eligibility for public housing based on:
Your annual gross income
Whether you qualify as a senior, a person with a disability, or a family
U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status
Other local factors
PHAs use income limits developed by HUD. The lower income limit is 80% and very low income limit is 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where you want to live.
Because income limits and eligibility requirements vary from area to area, you may be eligible in one state, city, or county but not in another. Contact your local PHA to learn about your eligibility for:
Federal and local public housing programs
Housing Choice vouchers
Apply for Public Housing
To apply, contact your local PHA. Here’s what you can expect during the application process.
Either you or a PHA representative will fill out your written application. Your PHA usually needs to collect the following information to determine eligibility:
Names of all people who would be living in the unit, their sex, date of birth, and relationship to the family head
Your present address and telephone number
Conditions that might help your family's reception into the program more quickly, including:
Current residency in substandard housing
Names and addresses of your current and previous landlords to verify your family's suitability as a tenant
An estimate of your family's income for the next 12 months and the sources of that income
The names and addresses of employers, banks, and others to verify your income, deductions, and family composition
Someone from your PHA may visit you in your home to interview you and your family members to see how you manage the upkeep of your current home.
After collecting this information, the PHA representative should describe the public housing program. They'll go over its requirements and answer any questions you may have.
A PHA representative will ask for documents including birth certificates and tax returns. The PHA uses these documents to verify the information on your application. The PHA may also talk to your employer and your other references. You will be asked to sign a form to authorize the release of information to the PHA.
Check the Status of Your Public Housing Application
Your PHA has to provide written notification of your application's status. If the PHA determines you're eligible, your name will be put on a waiting list. Once it's your turn, the PHA will contact you.
Get Help With Your Public Housing Application
Contact your local PHA for help with a public housing application or more information about housing programs. If you need further assistance, contact your local HUD branch office.
For information about any housing question, contact the PIH Customer Service Center.
File a Public Housing Complaint
If you need to file a complaint about your local PHA, contact the PIH Customer Service Center.
If you feel that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, file a housing discrimination complaint.
Identify and Complain about Housing Discrimination
Housing discrimination happens when a housing provider gets in the way of a person renting or buying housing because of their
- Race or color
- National origin
- Familial status (such as having children)
A housing provider that discriminates against someone could be a landlord or a real estate management company. It could also be a lending institution like a bank or other organization that aids in the homebuying process.
Housing discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Discrimination covered by the Act can take many forms beyond just raising prices or lying about availability. For example, the Act addresses wheelchair access in some newer properties. Learn what the Fair Housing Act covers, how to complain, and how the investigation process works.
File a Housing Discrimination Complaint
If you think you have experienced housing discrimination,
The Fair Housing Act does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But discrimination against someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) may still be in violation of the Act or other state or local regulations. If you think you've been discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity, file a complaint as described above.
Do you have a question?
Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They'll get you the answer or let you know where to find it.
Last Updated: September 20, 2021
How to Find Section 8 Apartments
Finding Section 8 apartments for rent can make an already stressful hunt that much more difficult. Around 2 million families live in subsidized units within Section 8 housing and most of these families earn less than $20,000 a year.
Knowing the rules of the program can help you locate Section 8 apartments in your area. It also gives you a better idea of the steps to take to find low-income housing in your area.
Here's what you need to know about how to find housing and apartments that accept Section 8, based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
What is Section 8?
Section 8 is a government-based program created by the HUD that benefits low-income residents who need assistance with paying rent. In order to qualify, families or individuals need to make less than a certain amount.
Section 8 was created with the following in mind:
- To provide decent housing for all Americans
- To facilitate voucher assistance
- Provide the development of community housing
- Educate and enforce fair housing for those who fall under a certain income
Do you qualify for Section 8 apartments?
In order to qualify for Section 8, you need to work with your local public housing agency (PHA). Your PHA will determine your eligibility for the Section 8 program based on your total annual income and the size of your family.
If you're interested in this program, you need to meet the requirements, which include family status and size, gross income, citizenship status, criminal history and eviction history.
The program is specific to U.S. citizens and small, specified categories on non-citizens. Visit your local PHA before beginning your apartment search to determine eligibility and the amount of housing payment you'll receive.
Keep in mind that just because you qualify, doesn't mean you'll automatically receive a voucher. According to an estimate on the HUD.gov website, only 25 percent of families that qualify for Section 8 actually receive it.
The wait for Section 8
Because of high demand and low inventory for Section 8 apartments, the waiting list, maintained by the housing authority, can take years — the length and wait-time depend on your local market. If the PHA decides that your family is eligible, you're added to this list.
There are lottery systems set up as part of the waiting and acceptance process. Also, there's no guarantee that you'll get accepted and granted a voucher upon qualification.
The PHA has the ability to add their own preferences for selecting people on the waiting list and they can also close the list completely when it gets too full.
Confirm that your name is on the list after you submit your application. Keep in mind that the application process can take up to a few months. You can verify you're on the list by mail or by logging into the program's online portal.
Section 8 income requirements
The first thing you should check is your income. Section 8 apartment's rent is based on 30 percent of your income. Whatever is left over — the program pays for it. About 75 percent of families who receive Section 8 vouchers earn below 30 percent of the median income.
In terms of income, you'll need to figure out if you fall in the required income range for your state and county. The income requirement also factors in the combined income everyone in your household earns.
Here's an online tool from HUD.gov that gives you a better idea of what income limits look like, based on state and county.
How to apply for section 8
You need to apply online or at your local public housing or HUD office, to get started. Here's a checklist of what you'll generally need and what you can expect when you're ready to start gathering your paperwork:
- Proof of personal and income-related information including income, inheritance, alimony and scholarships
- Your application will go into review
- All information goes through a verification process
- Approval for a voucher (which can take years)
Apartments that accept Section 8
Upon receiving your Section 8 voucher, HUD allows 90 days for residents to find a new place that's decent, safe, sanitary and will pass inspection prior to moving in. In order to find apartments near you that accept Section 8, your search starts online.
Organization and pre-planning will help ensure your search for a Section 8 apartment goes smoothly. Think about the type of apartment you're looking for and how soon you need to move. Take into account price, location, safety and other neighborhood attributes as they often give insight into the cost of neighborhood amenities or services.
Check out HUD.gov's online map, an interactive tool that lists apartment buildings it has worked with through Section 8.
Searching Google for “apartments that accept Section 8" will also help. Additionally, you may also find a number of non-profit organizations in your area that offer aid in your search.
Here are a few:
Section 8 inspections for tenants, landlords
After you find an apartment that accepts a Section 8 voucher, the property then needs approval. This likely includes a physical inspection. The PHA must approve the unit and the lease of your selected new home.
Gloria Shanahan, regional public affairs officer for HUD in Miami, said housing inspections are regularly conducted, “Each housing authority establishes contracts with landlords in its jurisdiction for apartments or homes that will abide by [HUD] rules and regulations. Inspections are performed frequently and contracts for individual families are reviewed on an annual basis."
You'll sign a lease with the landlord for at least one year. You may also be required to pay a security deposit. Then, the local public housing agency will pay the remaining portion of rent on your behalf each month.
Tenants have to follow certain rules in order to keep the voucher, such as living in the unit, respecting all lease agreement regulations. When the lease is up, the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow you to stay on a month-to-month lease.
Know your rights for Section 8
While it's important to know who to call when you have a concern, HUD says fair treatment is essential when searching for an apartment that accepts Section 8.
Under the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to:
- Refuse to rent to you or sell you housing
- Tell you housing is unavailable when it is available
- Show you apartments or homes only in certain neighborhoods
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Advertise housing to preferred groups of people only
- Deny you property insurance
- Conduct property appraisals in a discriminatory manner
- Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if it is necessary for you to fully use the housing. Note: Where reasonable though, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if it is necessary for you to use the housing on an equal basis with non-disabled persons
- Fail to design and construct housing in an accessible manner
- Harass, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising or assisting someone else with his/her fair housing rights
- Housing Choice Vouchers are portable, which means you can carry them with you when you move — no matter where you go in the U.S.
Section 8 search takes time, effort
While finding Section 8 housing requires more work to apply and find an apartment, it'll be well worth it if you end up receiving a voucher. Just remember to follow up if you make it on the waiting list, and keep realistic expectations.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional financial or legal advice as they may deem it necessary.
Vouchers apartments housing
How Do I Find a Unit with My Voucher?
- Where you can use a Section 8 voucher.
- Where you cannot use a Section 8 voucher
- Know the porting policy
- Search Affordable Housing Online for the city or county you will be living in.
- While scrolling through apartment listings, look for those with the "Accepts Vouchers" tag.
- Select the community image or link for details about the property.
- Contact the community by using the online submission form or phone number provided on the page, and ask about applying to be a resident with your Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher.
- The housing authority that manages your voucher may have a list of landlords that accept vouchers. Contact the housing authority office for more information.
There are multiple HUD regulations that determine what properties may accept a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher:
- The unit’s monthly rent must meet the housing authority’s Payment Standards. Payment Standards are the maximum monthly rent a household may pay with their voucher. To find the Payment Standards for your area, visit the housing authority’s website. If the Payment Standards are not available on the website, or the housing authority does not have a website, contact the office for this information. You can search our website for housing authority website and contact information.
- All units must be inspected and approved by the local housing authority to comply with HUD’s housing standards. Inspectors check for the overall condition of the unit, including its structure, mold and other possible contaminants, and animal infestations.
- There are several areas of the country that protect Section 8 voucher holders by making it illegal for a landlord to deny a tenant solely because they have a voucher. Voucher holders not in those areas must find a landlord that agrees to accept their voucher.
Step 1: Where you can use a Section 8 voucher.
The voucher much be used for a unit located within the service area (or jurisdiction) covered by the housing authority. Some parts of the country have laws that state landlords cannot discriminate against Section 8 Voucher holders (source of income discrimination). Many areas of the country still do not have these laws. Check with your local PHA to find out what laws are in place for your area.
Units that are eligible for Housing Choice Vouchers are:
- Any apartments or houses owned by a private landlord in the Section 8 protected areas identified here.
- Apartments or houses owned by a private landlord that will accept the voucher, unless the unit is located in an area protected by source of income discrimination laws.
- Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units, unless the unit has an additional Rental Assistance subsidy attached to it (See Step 2 below).
- Most Section 515 Rural Rental Housing units, unless the unit has an additional Rental Assistance subsidy attached to it (See Step 2 below).
- HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) units, unless the unit has an additional Rental Assistance subsidy attached to it (See Step 2 below).
- Eligible units owned by the housing authority that administers assistance under an Annual Contributions Contract, as long as the following conditions are met:
- The housing authority has informed the household orally and verbally that they have the right to select any available eligible unit, and the housing authority-owned unit is selected without influence by the housing authority.
- The household is not benefited by an additional form of housing subsidy.
- The housing authority uses a HUD-approved independent entity (such as the local government) to determine reasonable rent, assist the household in negotiating rent with the owner, and inspect the unit.
Step 2: Where you cannot use a Section 8 voucher
- College or other school dormitories.
- Penal, reformatory, medical, mental, or similar public or private institution units.
- Units that already provide a Rental Assistance subsidy, including:
- Public or Indian Housing
- Section Project-Based Rental Assistance
- Section 8 Project-Based Voucher
- USDA Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance
- Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
- Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities
- Any other federal, state or local housing program that offers a Rental Assistance subsidy (this does not include welfare or social security).
Continue Reading: Part 6: Are there other voucher programs? »
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