Section 8 is a program offered by the federal government through which low-income individuals and families can obtain housing in the private market. While Section 8 housing is essential for many citizens throughout the U.S., it can be difficult to determine how to get enrolled in the program and utilize its benefits to the fullest extent possible. Section 8 houses for rent are reserved for beneficiaries of the voucher program who have completed their applications in full and met all eligibility qualifications for the program.
The following sections explain how Section 8 apartments and houses are leased and how you can take the first steps toward renting your own subsidized home today. Remember to take into account your household size and preferences when calculating how long it will take to get a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) voucher, as these factors, and many more, may affect your experience in finding a home through this government program.
The Section 8 Application
Your search for Section 8 begins with the completion of the application, regardless of where you live, plan to live or work. Your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) can assist you in downloading and filling out the correct application.
However, it is important to note that the Section 8 application will differ based on the state in which you reside. Because different states have different resources to distribute to low-income applicants of the program, their applications may ask you to specify your current living situation in more or less detail. To find your local PHA, visit the HUD’s official website. There is a convenient map you can use to locate your state’s PHA.
How to Secure Section 8
Getting Section 8 requires you to complete two tasks, which are to enroll in the program and receive the voucher. While they may seem to be the same action, they are typically separated by a long waiting period. Here are the steps you must take to get enrolled in the Section 8 program for your local area:
- Apply for Section 8 – This step requires you to visit your local PHA and request an application. You should have all the necessary information and documents prepared including proof of identification and household income.
- Be informed of your eligibility status – Your PHA representative will be able to tell you if Section 8 is the right HUD rental assistance program for you, once your application is filed and your information is collected.
- Join the section 8 waiting list – If you are accepted into the program and there are enough funds and resources available for you, then you can enter the waiting list as a potential voucher recipient.
Be sure to ask your PHA representative about your other rental assistance options if you need more immediate help. Additionally, there are other government assistance programs that you can benefit from. The following outlines the steps involved in receiving your Section 8 voucher from a PHA representative:
- Wait to be selected from the waiting list – The wait times vary by area and your situation, but you can expect to wait a few weeks or months before being chosen as a voucher recipient. In the meantime, you must continue to demonstrate your eligibility for Section 8 and keep in contact with your PHA.
- Be briefed by your PHA for the program – The briefing must introduce you to program and all its benefits, give you detailed instructions on how and where you may search for a housing unit, explain how your subsidy is calculated based on your rent, remind you of your rights as a member of the program and clarify both your and the PHA’s roles throughout the duration of the voucher program. Briefing may occur in groups or individually and must include the issuance of a paper or electronic info packet.
- Be issued your voucher – This is when you officially receive your Section 8 benefits, and it may happen at the same time as your briefing. Your PHA representative will explain the expiration date of your voucher and direct you to sign any remaining paperwork.
- Request tenancy approval – After receiving Section 8 and finalizing all paperwork, you will begin your search for approved housing. Even if a landlord claims that units are Section 8 rentals, your PHA must give their written consent. To do so, you must submit a request for tenancy approval form and an unexecuted copy of your lease to the PHA within the expiration period of the voucher. Your PHA will approve rental requests if the rental passes an inspection, is deemed affordable and meets all other HUD standards.
- Move into your Section 8 home – The final step is to set a move-in date. Simply negotiate all the terms or your lease and sign it. Of course, you are required to keep in contact with your PHA, pay your remaining rent on time and maintain the terms of your lease. If you fail to do so, the HUD has the right to terminate your government rent subsidy, meaning your landlord may evict you.
Note: Your PHA is mandated to provide your landlord or the owner of your rental unit basic personal information about you including your name and current and prior address. Additionally, the PHA must inform the landlord or owner to perform a background check to search for your payment history, rental history and crime reports.
Finding Section 8 Rentals
Finding a Section 8 rental can be challenging, especially because of HUD’s strict standards. The following properties will be denied Section 8 tenancy under any and all circumstances:
- Public or Indian housing units
- Section 23 housing
- Section 8 housing under new construction, renovation, loan management or property disposition
- Rural Housing Service housing or rent supplements
- Section 202 projects
- Nursing homes or care facilities
- College or other school dorms
- Units residing on the property of public or private institutions
- Units occupied by their owner
PHAs are also forbidden to accept tenants if the owner is a relative of the potential tenant unless the tenant has a disability and needs certain accommodations.