The federal government offers housing assistance to allow low-income families, disabled people and the elderly to rent decent, clean homes through the Section 8 Housing Voucher program. Here’s how it works.
A Section 8 overview
The Housing and Urban Development agency of the U.S. government funds the Section 8 program. HUD channels vouchers to local public housing agencies (PHAs). People needing assistance to rent private housing apply through their local PHA.
Applicants can choose a single-family home, apartment or townhome as long as the housing meets HUD requirements. Section 8 applicants are not limited to neighborhood projects that already receive housing assistance.
Once the applicant is approved and chooses housing, the PHA pays the voucher money directly to the landlord. The resident pays any difference between the actual rent and the voucher amount.
Who is eligible for a Section 8 voucher?
To determine Section 8 eligibility, the PHA will review and verify the applicant’s family income, assets, household size and composition. The family income cap is 50 percent of the median income for the county or metro area in which the family wants to live. HUD requires PHAs to distribute 75 percent of their available voucher money to those earning 30 percent of local median income.
Once approved, applicants may be put on a waiting list until a Section 8 voucher is available. Long waits are common. The PHA may prioritize applicants who are currently homeless, living in substandard housing or paying more than 50 percent of their income toward housing.
How is the assistance amount figured?
The PHA determines a standard amount needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling in the local area. With that standard, the PHA determines an applicant’s voucher amount. The landlord is not required to charge only the standard rent. He can charge more, in which case the applicant or family must pay the difference. The family must pay 30 percent of its monthly adjusted gross income in rent and utilities. If the family pays a difference between the subsidy and the rent charged, HUD regulations cap the amount the family must pay in rent at 40 percent.
Terms of the lease
Once the applicant and landlord reach an agreement, the tenant must enter into a minimum one-year lease. The landlord concurrently enters into a contract with the PHA for the subsidy. The tenant may be asked to pay a security deposit. Section 8 leases can be renewed from year to year or go month to month. The tenant may seek housing elsewhere with proper notification to the PHA.
Requirements of the parties
The landlord must supply housing at a reasonable rent that is safe, clean and maintained according to HUD standards. He must abide by the terms of the lease with the tenant and the contract with the PHA. Failure to comply can result in the termination of Section 8 subsidy payments to the landlord. The PHA will inspect the property once per year.
The Section 8 tenant must abide by the terms of the lease, make payments on time, keep the dwelling in good condition and notify the PHA of any changes to income or family status and of any desire to move at the end of the lease.