Section 8 Housing offers federal financial aid to low-income families in need of housing assistance. Federal housing assistance programs began during the Great Depression, and in the 1970s, the programs were revamped to provide families with certificates and vouchers that help with the monthly cost of housing.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides federal funds to local housing agencies (HAs); housing agencies manage the distribution of the funds to low-income families based on needs, which are determined by annual gross income, age, disabilities, and citizenship or immigration status.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website (HUD.gov), 3,300 housing agencies currently manage 1.4* million families living in public housing units. Most of these families use section 8 rental vouchers to help pay for housing offered by the private market.
Families Seeking Section 8 Housing
In order to qualify for federal assistance, families need to apply for housing assistance with their local housing agency. The amount of help a family qualifies for is based on income limits developed by HUD; income limits are based on the median income for the county or metropolitan area that you want to live in, median income requirements are adjusted annually.
From HUD.gov “HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% and very low income limits at 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live.”
The application process requires that families provide a housing agency representative with documentation such as birth certificates and tax returns. As part of the process, the housing representative verifies the information with the applicant’s employer. After a family receives approval for housing assistance, they are placed on a waiting list, unless immediate assistance is available.
Tenants that qualify for public housing receive vouchers to cover the amount of rent that they qualify for; the tenant is responsible for the remaining portion of the rent, known as the Total Tenant Payment (TTP). Housing agencies set section 8 housing rent at 30% of a family’s monthly-adjusted income, or 10% of monthly income, whichever is greater. Welfare rent, if applicable, is also considered.
For example, if a tenant earns $1,500 per month and their rent is $1,000 per month, they would be responsible for $450 (30%) of the rent and the voucher would cover the remaining $550.
It is important to know that the Fair Market Rent in the tenants area determines housing assistance limits and that the tenant is responsible for any amount that exceeds the Fair Market Rent. If a tenant wants to rent a home that has a monthly obligation exceeding the Fair Market Rent in their area, they are responsible for 100% of the amount exceeding the limit.
For example, if the Fair Market Rent in an area is $800 and the tenant wants to rent a home for $1,000 per month, they would have to pay $200 plus their original 30% of income obligation.
Tenants are required to sign a lease agreement with the housing agency, which helps them to understand the responsibilities of renting a home.
Property owners Wanting to Get Section 8 Approval
In general, the only thing that distinguishes a section 8 home from a non-section 8 home is that the tenant(s) living in the residence are approved for public assistance. Property owners that want to have the option of renting to low-income tenants need to visit their local public housing authority and complete the required paperwork; after an inspection, the home is either approved or denied.
If the home is denied, make the needed repairs and reapply. After the home is approved, list the property on a website that offers consumers information about section 8 homes. It is not uncommon for property owners to find a section 8 tenant before receiving the approval to participate in the program.
Below are websites that list section 8 homes. If you are a tenant, you can locate a home on these websites, and if you are a property owner, these websites will allow you to advertise your property.
*1.2 million and 1.4 million were cited on the hud.gov website