The Housing Choice Voucher, also known as Section 8 is a federally-funded program that assists low-income families by providing rental assistance. For many people, this offers safe and secure housing not otherwise available. In this discussion, you will be provided with a basic understanding of what Section 8 is all about with some quick facts.
1. Family Income is the Biggest Factor for Eligibility
During the application process, a thorough background check will be conducted by your local Public Housing Authority to ensure your eligibility. This is why it is important to include an accurate representation of income as well as any additional assets. Keep in mind that this income is measured in terms of the entire family. A family is considered if their total income is lower than the median income within the area. The vast majority of families that receive housing assistance under the Section 8 program make less than 20,000 dollars a year.
2. It can take Several Years to be Approved for a Voucher
Once you are deemed eligible for the program, you are put on a waiting list. However, waiting lists are closed and not accepting new applications in most cases due to an increased number of applicants. You can check the status of the waiting list within your area by calling your local PHA or online. There are several reasons for the long delay including a lack of funding and the high demand for affordable housing. Applicants with lower incomes are given priority, which can have an impact on the overall waiting period. In very rare instances, however, some applicants are approved and obtain assistance immediately.
3. Subsidized Rent is Paid Directly to the Landlord
Under the Section 8 program, tenants are expected to pay approximately 30 percent of their total monthly income toward rent or other utility expenses. The rest is covered through the voucher and paid to the landlord on a month-by-month basis. Tenants are also required to sign a yearly lease with the landlord, which can be subject to changes at the end of the year. The landlord is also expected to sign and abide by a contract with the housing authority directly. If a tenant does not meet their expected portion of the rent, they are at risk of losing all assistance privileges offered by the program.
4. Families have the Freedom to Choose their Housing
The next step for approved applicants is to find a property that meets the requirements of the program. Your local PHA will provide you with a list of guidelines for choosing an affordable housing unit. General guidelines include reasonable rent and that the unit meets certain safety expectations. A representative of the local housing authority will then complete a full inspection of the unit to ensure that it meets the housing quality standards. Keep in mind that these regulations vary from state-to-state.
5. Rule Violations can Result in a Loss of Your Section 8 voucher
There are various official rules and regulations the tenant must abide by. Violations can include things like criminal activity, not paying rent on time, allowing someone to live on the property without approval, or providing false information. If you are removed from the program unexpectedly due to a violation, you will be responsible for paying the rent in full for all future payments and will no longer receive any government assistance.
It is important to consider these factors in depth when deciding whether to submit an application for housing assistance.