FAQ #1: Can a Convicted Felon Get Section 8 Housing?

Find out how you can apply for Section 8 Housing with a felony.

If you have a felony, your housing options are very limited. However, it is still possible in most cases to apply and be eligible for Section 8 Housing.

While there are general federal eligibility guidelines for felons interested in applying for Section 8, different state and county Housing Authorities may have their own specific guidelines.

To get started on the process, contact your local Housing Authority (HA) and find out what are the guidelines of applying if you have served time in prison.

Here, we will review the standard eligibility guidelines for Section 8 Housing for someone with a felony.

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Felonies That Automatically Disqualify an Individual From Section 8 Housing

There are 2 felonies that will prevent you from obtaining a section 8 voucher.

  1. If you have a lifetime listing on the sex offender registry
  2. If you sold meth anywhere near public housing facilities.

It is also important to realize that if you or someone in your family commits one of these felonies, while already residing in Section 8 Housing, they will take away your voucher forever. Also, that person will never be eligible for Section 8 again.

State and County Guidelines for Felons Applying for Section 8

If you have not committed any of the two felonies listed above, you may get a Section 8 Housing Voucher. Keep in mind, that most state and county Housing Authorities have very strict rules regarding felons. This is because their goal is to keep crime down in subsidized housing facilities.

Here is a general list of guidelines that can give you a sense if you can qualify for public housing.

  1. If our felony happened more than 5 years ago, most places will accept your application. However, there are some HA’s that have a 10 year requirement on a felony charge. Some HA’s may waive the 5-year rule if, you have gone through a rehabilitation program. However, in this case, you will need to present a certificate of compliance.
  2. If you have been convicted of a violent crime, drug dealing or fraud, some HAs may disqualify your application. Call your local Housing Authorities, let them know what you have been convicted for and find out if you should bother applying.
  3. If you or someone in your household has a documented history of drug and/or alcohol abuse, you may not be eligible. As mentioned before, Housing Authorities work very hard to keep crime down and to maintain an overall safe and calm environment of housing premises.
  4. You may be disqualified if you have a documented history of bad relationships with your neighbors. This may include: physical or verbal assaults, bullying and other types of peace disturbance.
  5. If you have not been consistently paying your rent in previous years, your application may be turned down.

Criminal Background Checks for Felons Applying For Section 8 Housing

When you apply for a Section 8 voucher, you will need to go through a criminal background check. This is why you should not lie or try to hide your conviction when you fill out the application.

Moreover, once you get your voucher, most landlords will also do their own criminal background checks. This is one of the reasons why felons have such a hard time securing housing, even if they already have a section 8 voucher. Many landlords prefer to play it safe, and turn down applications from felons.

However, this should not discourage you from applying. When you go for an interview with a prospective landlord, be honest about your past. Focus on the fact that you have changed for good. If a landlord happens to personally like you, he may be willing to rent you an apartment.

Documents Required to Apply for Section 8 Housing

This is a general list of documents you will need to present with your application. Possibly, some HAs may request additional paperwork from you:

  • Standard Application
    – Proof of citizenship/legal status
    – Birth certificate
    – Social Security number
    – Pay stubs (check how many months they want)
    – Bank statements (check how many months they want)
    – Criminal background check
    – Credit Score Check
    – Completed tax forms (check how many years they want)
    – Statement from government agencies about benefits, such as welfare payments or food stamps
    – Proof of current residence
    – Addresses and contact information where you lived in the last 5 years

Wait Time For a Section 8 Voucher

Overall, you should be prepared to wait for a while before you get your voucher. Section 8 is very popular and in many places, people wait as long as 5-6 years. The average wait is 2-4 years. In some areas, the wait can be very short, 6-12 months.

You should call the HAs where you plan to apply to find out an estimated wait time.

Moreover, it is a good idea to apply to as many local HAs as possible. Thus, you will have a much higher chance of getting a voucher.

Finally, be sure to check the deadline of the application. If you miss the deadline, the list will close, and you will need to wait a year or more to apply again.