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Can a Convicted Felon Get Section 8 Housing?

Find Out How You Can Apply For Section 8 Housing With a Felony

Are you wondering if a felony can prevent you from applying for Section 8 Housing? If so, read on to learn more about the eligibility guidelines and some of the rules that you need to know. 

While having a criminal record can make it harder to get approved for public housing in most states, felons are still able to apply for Section 8 Housing in certain cases. To determine your eligibility and what local regulations may affect your application process, it is important that you double check with the relevant Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) before submitting any paperwork. 

That said, don’t be discouraged if your past has prevented you from accessing good quality housing options – there are many organizations that can help guide and support those with prior convictions through this process.

Here, we will review the standard eligibility guidelines for Section 8 Housing for someone with a felony criminal record. We will also review some of the common guidelines that PHAs use to determine if you can qualify for Section 8 as a convicted felon.

Felonies That Automatically Disqualify an Individual From Section 8 Housing

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 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 housing vouchers or be able to live with someone on Section 8.

State and County Guidelines for Felons Applying for Section 8

If you have a felony conviction, but not a lifetime listing on the sex offender registry and/or you haven’t been convicted of selling methamphetamines near public housing facilities then you have passed the first test and are ones step closer to finding a place to live. Keep in mind that most state and county Public Housing Authorities have very strict rules regarding felons.

Even though you are eligible on a federal level you still may be not be able to get a Section 8 Housing voucher to live in affordable housing. These rules will vary by Public Housing Authority and you will need to ask each individual housing program about their rules for 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 your felony happened more than 5 years ago, most places will accept your application. However, there are some PHA’s that have a 10 year requirement on a felony charge. Some PHA’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 PHAs may disqualify your application. Call your local Housing Authorities, let them know what you have been convicted for and find out if it makes sense to apply.
  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 in public housing.
  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 disturbing the peace issues.
  5. If you have not been consistently paying your rent in previous years, your application may be turned down.

Standard Information Required by PHAs on a Section 8 Housing Application

  1. Names of all persons who would be living in the unit, their sex, date of birth, and relationship to the head of the family
  2. Your present address and telephone number
  3. Family characteristics (e.g., veteran) or circumstances (e.g., living in substandard housing) that might qualify the family for tenant selection preferences
  4. Names and addresses of your current and previous landlords for information about your family’s suitability as a tenant
  5. An estimate of your family’s anticipated income for the next twelve months and the sources of that income
  6. The names and addresses of employers, banks, and any other information the PHA would need to verify your income and deductions, and to verify the family composition
  7. The Public Housing Authority (PHA) may also come to your residence and conduct interviews with you and members of your household to evaluate how you maintain your present dwelling

Documents Required by Public Housing Authorities to Apply for Section 8 Housing

This is a general list of documents you will need to present with your application. Some PHAs may request additional paperwork from you:

  • Proof of citizenship/legal status
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security number
  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Criminal background check
  • Credit score check
  • Completed tax forms (1040s, 1099s, etc)
  • 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

Criminal Background Checks When Applying For Section 8 Housing

When you apply for a Section 8 housing assistance voucher, you will need to go through a criminal background check. This is why you should be completely honest on your application and in your interview when seeking housing assistance.

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 with their housing search, even if they already have a section 8 voucher. Many landlords prefer to play it safe, and turn down applications from felons even if they qualify for section 8 housing.

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 and bring any proof with you that can support this. If a landlord happens to personally like you, they may be willing to rent you a home.

Wait Time to Get Section 8 Housing

Getting Section 8 housing first means you get your Section 8 voucher from your PHA. Overall, you should be prepared to wait for a while before you get your voucher. Section 8 is very popular and typically the funding can’t keep up. In many Section 8 programs people wait as long as 5-6 years. Around the country the average wait time is 2-4 years, but in some areas, the wait can be very short, as little as 6-12 months.

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

Moreover, it is a good idea to apply to as many local PHAs as possible. By doing this 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.

Once you have your voucher from your PHA it can then take even more time to find housing to live in. People with criminal histories are going to be at a disadvantage in this process, but with enough time and determination it is possible. 

What Happens if You Are Arrested For a Crime While Living in Section 8 Housing?

If you are able to get through the application process and find federally assisted housing, be aware that being arrested can impact that. When living in Section 8 housing, it’s essential to understand the potential consequences of an arrest for a crime. Here is what you can expect if you or a household member is arrested while living in Section 8 housing.

  1. Potential Termination of Section 8 Assistance:
    • If you or a member of your household is arrested for a crime, your Section 8 housing assistance may be at risk. The local Public Public Housing Authority (PHA) has the discretion to terminate your assistance if they determine that the criminal activity is a threat to the health, safety, or peaceful enjoyment of other residents or the community.
  2. Consideration of the Nature of the Crime:
    • The PHA will consider the nature of the crime when deciding whether to terminate your assistance. Violent crimes, drug-related offenses, and criminal activity that threatens the well-being of other residents or the community are more likely to result in termination.
  3. Due Process and Appeal Rights:
    • If the PHA decides to terminate your Section 8 assistance, you have the right to due process. This includes receiving a written notice explaining the reasons for termination and the opportunity to request an informal hearing to contest the decision. During the hearing, you can present evidence and witnesses to support your case.
  4. Reinstatement of Section 8 Assistance:
    • If you successfully appeal the termination decision, your Section 8 assistance may be reinstated. However, if the PHA’s decision is upheld, you will lose your housing assistance and may have difficulty securing future housing assistance due to the criminal record.

An arrest for a crime while living in Section 8 housing can have serious consequences, including the potential loss of housing assistance. It’s crucial to understand the implications and take steps to protect your rights during the process. If you find yourself in this situation, consider consulting with an attorney or legal aid organization for guidance.

What happens if you are convicted of a crime while living in section 8 housing?

A criminal conviction can jeopardize your eligibility for Section 8 housing assistance. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has established guidelines that allow local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to deny or terminate assistance for certain criminal convictions.

These include convictions related to drug offenses, violent crimes, and sex offenses. The PHA will consider factors such as the nature and severity of the offense, the time elapsed since the conviction, and any evidence of rehabilitation when making their decision.

What happens if someone living with you is convicted of a crime?

If someone living with you is convicted of a crime while you are receiving Section 8 housing assistance, the situation can have significant implications for your household. Depending on the nature and severity of the offense, your PHA may determine that the criminal activity is a threat to the health or safety of other residents or the community and decide to terminate your Section 8 assistance.

It’s important to note that even if you were not directly involved in the criminal activity, as a member of the household, you could be at risk of losing your housing assistance. However, due process rights apply in this scenario as well – you would receive written notice explaining why termination is being considered and given an opportunity to contest it through an informal hearing where evidence can be presented supporting your case.

If termination does occur for any members within the household who have been convicted; they may no longer legally reside in that unit – meaning eviction from there will likely follow. In addition, with less people residing in the unit, your local PHA will update the amount of assistance you qualify for and that may negatively impact your ability to live in public housing.

Final Thoughts

So, is it possible to get a Section 8 voucher as a convicted felon? Yes it is, but it’s definitely harder than if you don’t have a criminal record. If you are a registered sex offender, have been convicted of drug trafficking, or some other more serious offenses, then you could ultimately be prevented completely from access to this federal housing program.

People with criminal records in general could face an uphill battle finding housing providers willing to rent to them, but the more documentation and proof you can show how your life has changed since you were released from jail, the better your chances of getting public housing assistance.


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