Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and delivered through state-level programs, Section 8 housing refers to the Housing Choice Voucher Program that provides financial assistance to individuals in need of money for housing. A family that qualifies for Section 8 will work with a local public housing agency (PHA) and will receive funds from the federal government through the PHA.

The History of the Section 8 Program

Established in the 1930s under the eighth section of the Housing Act of 1937, Section 8 was designed to provide housing assistance to low-income households. Managed by HUD and administered by local offices, the program provides assistance to somewhere around five million households. Not only can a household apply the voucher to a relocation effort, but the voucher may also go toward the purchase of a house.

The program also features guarantees made to property owners who agree to set aside a certain number of their units to low-income tenants in return for guaranteed payments from the federal government. A related program is HUD-VASH, which is the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) voucher program that distributes thousands of vouchers each year to homeless veterans.

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Who is Eligible for Section 8 Vouchers?

According to the HUD website, eligibility for housing vouchers is based on total annual gross income, family size, and citizen status. In most cases, a family’s income may not exceed fifty percent of the median income for the metropolitan area in which the family lives. Income limits vary over time, and the best way to determine income limits and eligibility is to contact the PHA nearest to the family’s location.

A landlord may run into legal problems if he or she refuses to rent out a unit to a Section 8 family based upon that family’s participation in the housing voucher program. It is legal for landlords to reject applications based on general factors like credit rating and criminal history, but many landlords accept Section 8 regardless of a tenant’s credit or history because of the guaranteed payment from the government.

Tenant Responsibilities as Section 8 Enrollees

Households who successfully apply for Section 8 housing must follow several rules to remain on the program. The family must find a Section 8 eligible housing unit, live in that residence, and pay a security deposit since the government doesn’t fund deposits through the Section 8 program. Section 8 funds may not cover the entire amount of rent, so tenants are responsible for paying their portion of the rent.

Tenants must also follow the rules of the community in which they live, and those rules are spelled out in the lease signed by the tenant. Common rules usually include paying rent on time, cleaning the unit regularly, and avoiding illegal activities while receiving Section 8 payments. Tenants must also make the housing authority aware of any changes in family size or income.

The housing guidelines for Section 8 are contained within the official Housing and Urban Development Files under Title 24 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Published by the U.S. Government Publishing Office, those interested in reading the federal government’s guidelines in their entirety may seek out 24 CFR Part 982 for information. Households interested in applying for Section 8 Housing vouchers should contact the local PHA to check eligibility.