The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also called Section 8, is a very popular housing assistance program in the U.S. The program is designed to help low- and extremely low-income families afford their rent by issuing vouchers to eligible applicants. 

Because this housing assistance program is meant to help those who are suffering financially, there are strict income limit requirements set in place. In addition to income, the legal U.S. status and criminal record of adult applicants are also considered as well. It is very important that everyone who is interested in applying understands the Section 8 qualifications for assistance.  

You can be denied assistance for many different reasons. For example, if you have a household income that is above the acceptable limit, your application will be denied. Also, if you do not pass the background check, no assistance will be granted. 

If you don’t meet the Section 8 requirements, you will receive a denial letter from your local public housing agency (PHA) that explains why you were denied. To learn more about the common reasons for disqualifications, read the sections below. 

You Aren’t Within the Section 8 Income Limits

Section 8 housing assistance is denied if your household income exceeds the income limits set in place for your area. Each area has a different median household income, so the exact limits vary from place to place. For example, the limit for one city in California may be much higher than the limit in a different California city. This means that you may qualify for assistance in one area but not another. 

One general Section 8 requirement is that your household income must not be more than 50 percent of the median income based on the area you live and your family size. The three income-level categories are classified extremely low-income, very low-income and low-income. Those income levels are set at 30, 50 and 80 percent of the median household income in that area, respectively. If applicants’ income is more than 80 percent of the median family income, they will be denied benefits.

All PHAs are required by law to administer 75 percent of vouchers to applicants in the extremely low-income group (those with an income at or below 30 percent of the median household income). This requirement helps to ensure that those who are struggling the most receive the most assistance. 

Did you know? Assistance can be denied at any stage. There may be an initial denial after your application is received, a denial after you have reached the top of the Section 8 waiting list if you no longer meet the qualifications, or a withdrawal of a voucher after acceptance.

Your Section 8 Application is Incomplete

Before you submit your Section 8 housing application, you must ensure that you have filled it out completely and included all necessary documents and forms. If your application is missing important information, the PHA cannot use it to properly determine your eligibility, so your application will be denied. When you apply for Section 8, you must provide basic information including but not limited to:

  • The names, sex and date of birth for all family members living in the household.
  • The total gross annual income of the household.
  • Address and contact information.
  • Contact information for previous landlords.
  • The legal status in the United States for each member of the household.

You must prove that the information you put on the form is correct by providing certain documents. This may include photo identification, birth certificates, Social Security cards, pay stubs and more. Failure to provide all of the documents requested by the PHA will result in disqualification. Also, if a member of the family refuses to sign the consent forms, your application will be denied. 

You Have Violated Section 8 Rules 

Before you can receive a Section 8 voucher, all adult members of your household must pass a background check.  You are not eligible for housing vouchers if any of the following is true:

  1.  You are registered as a lifetime sex offender.
  2. You have been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine (meth) in a federally assisted housing unit.
  3. You have been evicted from a federally assisted housing unit for drug-related crimes within the last three or five years (unless you have completed a drug treatment program approved by the PHA). 

The PHA in your area can establish specific policies and requirements. If they do decide to deny assistance, they are required by law to send a Section 8 denial letter. A few common reasons for denial include the following:

  • A member of the family has received an eviction notice 
  • A member of the family has committed fraud, bribery or other crimes related to the public housing program
  • A member of the family has committed a drug-related or violent crime
  • The PHA has decided to withdraw assistance from any member of the family

All disqualifying factors that the PHA must consider are assessed on a case-by-case basis. The severity of the case and the repercussions of denying assistance to the family members not involved in the criminal activity are all considered as well. 

You Don’t Meet the Other Section 8 Qualifications

There are other Section 8 eligibility requirements that you must meet in order to be eligible for assistance. This includes having acceptable lawful status in the United States. Also, each PHA may have additional qualifying factors that they consider when deciding who to give provide assistance to. Because the requirements may vary, it is crucial that you are aware of what the requirements are in your area when you apply. 

What Can Be Done After a Section 8 Denial

If you receive a letter of Section 8 denial and you believe that the denial is unwarranted, you can request an appeal. There is a deadline stated on the letter that indicates the date a hearing must be scheduled by in order for an appeal to be filed.

Note: During the time after you file an appeal, the PHA is not legally allowed to terminate any voucher payments until an informal hearing is held. 

The hearing will be conducted by a third-party individual who was not involved in the denial decision. He or she will listen to the case and make a determination based on the Section 8 rules and the evidence you provide. If you are able to prove that you are still eligible for housing assistance, the denial can be dropped. 

You have the right to be represented by an attorney or legal representative during the hearing. Also, ensure that you gather together all the necessary documents that you can use to prove why you should not be denied assistance. This may include lease contracts, police reports, damage claims, etc. To determine what items to bring, contact the PHA or speak with your lawyer.