Section 8, formally as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is designed to help low-income families, people with disabilities and senior citizens afford rent. While the Section 8 housing program is funded by the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the benefits are administered by local public housing agencies (PHAs) in each state.
This program offers assistance in the form of housing vouchers that cover a portion of your rent payment. You are then responsible to pay the difference between the actual rent charged by your landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
It is crucial that you know how to qualify for Section 8 before you apply. There are four important requirements that you and your family must meet in order to have your Section 8 application approved. These requirements include income and residency status.
Also, you should note that the specific eligibility requirements may vary from state to state, so be aware of the requirements in your area. Additionally, if you apply for assistance you must continue to meet those eligibility requirements in order to continue receiving the benefits. To learn more about the four requirements you must meet to receive housing assistance, read the sections below.
Section 8 Income Limits
The Section 8 program was created to provide financial assistance to eligible low-income families who cannot afford their rent payments. Because it designed to help low-income families, you can only receive assistance if your income is at or below the limit set in place by your local public housing agency (PHA). The program is also designed to give priority to applicants with the most need.
The income requirements vary greatly from one area to another because the cost of living in different cities varies as well. Your local PHA will set the income limit that you must be at based on the median family income of the area. To learn what the specific income requirements are in your area, contact your local PHA.
One of the Section 8 requirements is that, in general, your family’s income must not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where you live. The PHA organizes applicants into three categories including:
- Extremely low-income. To be considered extremely low-income, a family must have an income at or less than 30 percent of the area’s median family income. Applicants in this group are more likely to receive assistance because, by law, the PHA must award 75 percent of its vouchers to applicants in this group.
- Very low income. This group consists of families that earn between 30 and 50% of the median income for the PHA’s area.
- Low-income. The HUD deems all families that have an income between 50% and 80% percent of the area’s average income to be low-income. Although most applicants that have an income above that level do not qualify for assistance, some applicants in this range may still be eligible based on other factors.
The size of the family also affects your Section 8 eligibility as well. For example, a family that consists of one individual may be considered low income if he or she earns around $15,000 per year, whereas a family of eight that earns around $30,000 would likely be considered extremely low income.
Family Composition Requirements for Section 8
Although income is one of the most important Section 8 qualifications, family composition is also an important factor as well. The HUD considers a family to be one or more people who live together, even if they are not related. Also, according to the HUD, a family can be defined as:
- A group of individuals with or without children.
- A single individual with or without children.
- Senior citizens older than 62 years of age who live together.
- A displaced family, wherein one or more family members has been displaced at some point.
Section 8 benefits are available to all qualifying individuals and families, regardless of whether the family consists of one person or eight. However, as mentioned above, the family size does affect the income limits that must be met.
Section 8 Citizenship Requirements
To get approved for Section 8 vouchers, you and your family members must also meet the residency requirements as well. To qualify, all applicants must be United States citizens or hold lawful status in the U.S.
When you complete an application for Section 8, you’re required to provide documents that prove your citizenship or status. This may be a U.S. passport, Social Security card, registration card, resident alien card or another form of proof of legal status.
Only certain types of non-citizens are still eligible to receive benefits from Section 8. This includes but is not limited to:
- Legal permanent residents.
- Asylum or amnesty recipients.
- Agricultural workers with temporary resident status.
- Non-citizens eligible for permanent residence who have continuously resided in the U.S. since before 1972.
Note: If only a portion of the family members in your household hold eligible legal status, your family is considered mixed. You are therefore only eligible for prorated assistance that is determined based on the number of family members that hold legal status in the United States.
Section 8 Background Check Requirements
To determine Section 8 eligibility, most PHAs complete a background check on all adult applicants for the housing vouchers. Your application may be rejected if you have a criminal record, depending on your specific charges. You are ineligible for housing vouchers if:
- You are a registered lifetime sex offender.
- You were convicted of creating methamphetamine while residing in federally funded government housing.
- Federally assisted housing evicted you for criminal activity relating to drugs inside the last three or five years unless you have completed a drug treatment program approved by the PHA.
You may also be denied assistance if you have other drug-related or violent crimes on your record. The exact requirements vary depending on the PHA.
If it is discovered that you meet the eligibility requirements, you will be put on a Section 8 waiting list. Once you have reached the top of the list, your local PHA will notify you and discuss the amount of financial assistance you qualify for. You can then begin searching for suitable accommodations or begin applying that assistance to your current rent payment.