Section 8 Qualifications: What are They?

It’s no secret that a lot of people have trouble keeping up with the daily costs of living. When you realize that it costs $1,659 to rent a typical apartment in America, we get a clear understanding of the kind of challenge some people go through. To put things into perspective, let’s say someone works 40 hours a week. Let’s also say they make $13.50 an hour. That’s $2,160 before taxes a month. That doesn’t leave them with much for the rest of their expenses. 

According to the definition from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), affordable housing expenses should be no more than 30% of a household’s gross monthly income. So, that same person making $2,160 a month should not be spending more than $648 on housing. That’s difficult to achieve nowadays, which is why government-backed housing assistance programs, such as Section 8, can be helpful. 

Defining Section 8

You’re likely to come across this program under the name of the Housing Choice Voucher Program. While HUD funds the program, it is up to local public housing authorities (PHAs) to run the program. As the program’s name suggests, the program gives low-income families and individuals housing vouchers. These vouchers are given to landlords as a form of rent payment on behalf of the recipient by the local PHA. However, voucher holders can’t just choose any house to live in. These homes must meet specific housing quality standards (HQS)

Does The Housing Choice Voucher Program Actually Work?

There’s research that was done on the program. HCV helps cut down on homelessness and also helps people going through other difficulties. The idea is that these vouchers would take some of the housing cost load off households’ shoulders, enabling them to have money for other necessary expenses. Families who spend too much of their income on rent end up spending less on food, clothing, health care, transportation, etc., than those who pay less.

Individuals should expect to pay no more than 30% of their income towards their rent with these vouchers. By law, the household may not choose a home that requires the family to pay more than 40% of their adjusted monthly income if the home is over the payment standard.

Qualifying For Section 8

There are four main factors that will decide an applicant’s eligibility for Section 8:

  • The Family Situation
  • Total Income Limit
  • Citizenship Status
  • Eviction History

To get your application accepted for Section 8, you must fulfill all the requirements the program demands. In some cases there might be some exceptions, however, you want to make sure you at least meet the minimum basic requirements when applying. One thing to keep in mind is that these requirements are subject to change according to which area you live in.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if your application is accepted, you’ll likely be put onto a waitlist. These waitlists can be long. The reason behind that is many families seek this kind of assistance, with not enough resources to go around. If you’re accepted into the program, you will receive your voucher eventually, so hang in there! 

The Family Situation

As one of the four main deciding factors of your Section 8 application, your family plays a big part in your eligibility process. To qualify for Section 8, your family status must meet certain requirements. It’s important to contact your local PHA to find out whether your family qualifies for the program or not. While requirements may differ from one PHA to another, you can count on the following guidelines:

  • You have at least one person over the age of 62.
  • Your family has or doesn’t have children.
  • There’s at least one person with a disability in the family.
  • Your family has been displaced involuntarily for qualifying reasons.

It’s worth nothing that you necessarily don’t need to meet all of the conditions listed above! However,  if you meet one then you may be eligible.

Total Income Limit

To qualify for Section 8, families typically should not make more than 50% of their area median income (AMI). That’s another thing that may vary from PHA to another. The types of income a Section 8 applicant should mention include:

  • Overtime earnings
  • Bonuses and/or tips
  • Social Security payments
  • Disability income
  • Death benefits
  • Insurance payments
  • Unemployment payments
  • Military pay
  • Alimony
  • Child support

Your local PHA may also request your recent bank statements. The kind of documents you’ll need to hand in may also vary from one PHA to another.

How Do PHAs Prioritize?

A minimum of 75% of eligible housing choice voucher holders must earn 30% of their area’s median income or less. Moreover, PHAs may prioritize certain cases they deem as in serious need of assistance. These cases may include:

  • Homeless people
  • People living in unhealthy housing environments
  • People who pay more than half of their income on rent
  • Households that have been involuntarily displaced

Citizenship Status

This one is straightforward. Eligible applicants need to be either U.S. citizens or eligible immigrants. For that reason, applicants and their family members will have to sign a certification form. These forms are made to clarify each member’s citizenship status. Your local PHA may even ask for other documents, such as:

  • Passports from the U.S.
  • Registration cards
  • Resident alien cards
  • Social Security cards

If you live in a household where there are both qualified and unqualified members, you may still receive Section 8 benefits. Assistance received will be based only on the qualified members.

Eviction History

PHAs want to make sure they’re giving these vouchers to reliable people. Previous evictions show unhealthy living habits that may affect an applicant’s chances of receiving Section 8 benefits. That’s why if an applicant has an eviction history that is tied to drug-related crimes, they’re unlikely to qualify for Section 8. An applicant may also disqualify is if they have been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines in government housing.

Let’s Wrap Things Up

Rent prices are getting out of reach for many people out there. Thankfully, Section 8 can help eligible people. The program will help people pay a part of their rent, enabling them to focus their finances on other important things. Section 8 allows eligible voucher holders to choose their own homes in the private market. These homes’ landlords just need to accept the vouchers as a form of payment. These vouchers can then be used to pay a portion of the rent due. Moreover, qualifying terms for this program can differ from one area to another. However, there are 4 eligibility factors that matter in every area: income level, family status, citizenship status, and eviction history. Finally, if you plan on applying for the program or if you have any questions about it, make sure to contact your local PHA.