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Section 8 Eligibility Guide

Section 8 Vouchers provide direct Government support to assist low income families with rent or mortgage payments. Here's how to determine whether or not you are eligible.

Are You Eligible?
Millions of American families are struggling to make rent and mortgage payments. Many of them are spending half their take-home income or more on housing, leaving them without the resources they need to cover all of the other expenses they face. This problem has been recognized by government, and programs are in place to assist those who need help to find or stay in safe, secure homes. Many Americans who are eligible for help do not even know that it is available. Knowing your options and being aware of the procedures you need to follow to make use of these programs can make a huge difference in your family's quality of life.

The Housing Choice Voucher, or Section 8, is a program funded and administered by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It relies on local public housing agencies to screen applicants, assess property, contract with landlords, and release funds.

Section 8 vouchers can provide funding to individuals in private residences, not just in public housing projects. There are no established limits on building types or location within a jurisdiction. Recipients may choose a single-family home, apartment, or townhome that is priced within the area's market value rate. Voucher coupons typically go toward payment of rent, but in some situations, the vouchers can be applied to mortgage payments as well.

Determine Your Eligibility
Eligibility is based primarily on two factors: household size and family income.

Household: HUD has defined family to mean a single person or group of persons and includes the following:

A household with or without children. This includes a child who is temporarily away from home due to placement in foster care.

One or two individuals who are at least 62 and living together. The household may include live-in aides.

Disabled individual or two or more disabled individuals or disabled individuals with live-in aides.

Households with more members can be eligible with more income than individuals and smaller families. Further clarification is available in this PDF published by HUD.

Income: The family income (total annual gross income) may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metro where the family lives or is seeking to live. HUD publishes the income levels for each location. Your PHA will know the income limit or you can search a site such as Credio. Credio provides the median income for many counties in the US and illustrates the household income amounts to be eligible for applying.

For example: in Davidson County, Tennessee, the published median income is $66,900. A family of four with an income less than $20,070 is classified as extremely low income. An income of $33,450 designates very low income.

In San Francisco County in California, the published median income is $101,900. An income of $30,570 gives a designation of extremely low income. $50,950 is designated as very low income.

The distinction between "extremely" and "very" low income is significant. "Extremely" represents 30% of the median income, while "very" low represents 50% of the median income. Federal law dictates that 75% of Section 8 monies must go to those who are in the "extremely" low income category.

Additional Requirements
Recipients must be U.S. citizens or non-citizens with eligible immigrant status. Recipients must have a clean criminal record. Sexual offenders are not accepted.

During the application process, the Local Public Housing Authority (PHA) will also collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. They will verify this information with other local agencies, employers and banks, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment to be allocated.

Eligibility for Mortgage Subsidy
In addition to other requirements, recipients of mortgage funds must earn a minimum income of $10,300 annually and must have at least one year of employment at their current job.

Consider "Local Preference" Standards
Each PHA is trusted to set local preference standards for its jurisdiction so that distribution of vouchers will match the needs of the community. By falling into one or more of the designated groups, individuals can move up on the waiting list making their wait time shorter or even potentially allowing them to receive funds immediately. Common local preference standards include:

Homeless families
Age 62 or older
Veteran/widow of veteran of US armed services
Working more than 42 hours/week
Currently living in a shelter
Family separated due to housing issues
Paying over 50% of income toward housing
Displaced families

Find Eligible Housing
Not only must the recipient meet eligibility standards, the dwelling must also qualify. The PHA will provide direction and guidelines, but it is the responsibility of the recipient to find eligible residences. Some considerations are listed.

Lease Duration - The voucher recipient must negotiate the lease with the landlord. Originally, the lease must be for one year.

Lease Amount - A maximum allowance for the voucher is calculated based on rental prices in the area. Voucher recipients are responsible for paying at least 30% but not more than 40% of their income in rent and utilities.

Unit Size - The PHA will inform the recipient what size unit they are eligible for. A family of six is not expected to live in a single bedroom unit. However, in an effort to limit fraud, neither will a family of two be permitted to rent a unit of four bedrooms. Unit size allotment is determined by the PHA.

Landlord - Accepting Section 8 vouchers is at the discretion of the landlord. They are generally willing to accept Section 8 for good tenants with high credit scores, a clean criminal record, and a good rental history. The landlord must agree to Section 8 terms.

Inspection - The PHA will inspect the property before releasing funds to insure that it meets basic standards of health and safety.

The Housing Choice Program provides valuable subsidies for families. With the money for decent housing, families can make a choice to move to a location where their children can have a basic standard of sanitation and where they are safe to grow and play. Most recipients must endure months and sometimes years of waiting; but in the end, they are able to secure a better environment for the family.

Ready to learn about the application process? Click Here to View Our Application Guide.