Poor or low-income families lookout for financial assistance from the federal government in order to make their ends meet. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a government-run organization that provides assistance to low-income families in order to help afford a decent home.
The section 8 vouchers released by Housing Choice Voucher Program exclusively deal in providing financial assistance to families in order to pay for their housing finances.
How to apply for section 8? This is the question in the minds of clueless citizens who are looking for help in order to end their housing woes. The section 8 vouchers are primarily based upon the family’s income as well as its size under the legislation of local Public Housing Agencies (PHA). The recipients of section 8 are free to opt for any housing schemes which meet their chosen program.
What is the Section 8 Housing Program?
Section 8 is a housing program that can be applied by both individuals or a household from Housing Choice Voucher Program. Due to an overwhelming response from the public, the recipients are generally given a timeframe of about 1-2 years to wait before their application is processed. The applicant can opt for other project-based vouchers during their waiting time.
Once the application is approved for section 8 housing aid, then the applicant can start searching for a flat or a house according to their financial position. The applicant is liable to use the section 8 voucher only to invest in properties that also meet the requirements set by the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The house will undergo physical inspection before housing assistance is provided to the applicant.
After the physical inspection, the property is approved by the Public Housing Authority (PHA) as per the contract, to pay for the rental portion.
It is not easy to get the properties approved by section 8 housings; there are a lot of strict codes and regulations involved in order for the PHA to pay for it.
How to Get Section 8 Vouchers sanctioned?
There are certain ways to get the section 8 vouchers approved. Let’s have a look at the options available in the market:
Finding the Public Housing Agency (PHA) locally in your premises
The very first place to begin the process of attaining a section 8 voucher is to find a Public Housing Agency directly on your premises. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is looked after by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) but it is generally administered by the local PHAs. The website of the Public Housing Agency has a list of all the local PHAs according to their city, zip codes, states, etc. along with complete contact details.
It is very important to determine whether you are eligible for section 8 vouchers or not. A local PHA can also guide and assist you. The eligibility largely depends upon the size of the family along with the gross income annually.
The income must not exceed 50 percent of the median of the local area’s income else the person will not be eligible. To attain a section 8 voucher, it is a must for the applicant to be a citizen of the United States of America. There are other vouchers that assist the immigrant in housing but section 8 vouchers are solely dedicated for American citizens only.
Obtaining an Application from Housing Choice Voucher Program for Section 8
The applications for Housing Choice Voucher Program are completely free of costs and are available online as well. They are readily available at the local PHA offices and can be mailed to the applicants as well. The application can also be obtained from the local housing’s authoritative office.
Submission of Housing Choice Voucher Program Section 8 Application
The applicant is required to fill out all the basic information required in the form such as name, social security number, date of birth, and annual gross income. The form also asks for other mandatory details of the applicant such as mailing address, housing history, phone numbers, email addresses, criminal record, and much more.
The applicant needs to fill out the form with complete honesty and submit it to the nearest PHA in order for the application to be processed further efficiently.
After the application is processed in the housing office it is time to wait for the individual or family to know whether their application is approved or rejected. If it is approved then they will be placed on a waiting list; and if it’s rejected then the status will be known within a few working days. The rejection of the application can be because of the higher demand of section 8 vouchers. The rejected applicant can demand an informal review if the PHA does not provide proper reasoning behind rejection.
Placement in the Waiting List
If the application is approved then the applicant is added to a waiting list which unfortunately lasts for years. The real reason behind this long waiting timeframe is the lack of funding in general, and the growing demand for section 8 vouchers.
The housing program requires funding on a regular basis to entertain all the applicants applying for housing aid under the section 8 vouchers.
Once the application is processed, the housing authorities put the applicant on the waiting list and inform them by mailing their expected timeframe and waiting details or they can find out themselves by logging on to the website.
Receiving the Voucher
Once the waiting time is over, the applicant receives the voucher and is all set to find the most suitable housing for themselves. The housing choice voucher program makes its tenant pay about 30 percent of the income in the form of rent. The rest is covered by the section 8 voucher.
It is up to the applicants to find such accommodations, which accept the vouchers of section 8 as well as meet the other requirements of the program such as the physical inspection. Once such housing is selected and processed, the PHAs will start paying the monthly rents directly to the landowner.
The Public Housing Authority also offers project-based vouchers housing assistance along with tenant-based vouchers. While a person is waiting for the tenant vouchers, s/he can apply for project-based vouchers which also help in assisting the housing needs. PHA offers up to 20 percent of the rent for housing choices for people having project-based vouchers. Specific legalities can let the applicant attain project-based vouchers of section 8 as well.
Eligibility Criteria for Section 8 Vouchers
The Public Housing Authority (PHA) determined the section 8 vouchers eligibility criteria based upon 4 key factors. They are:
- Annual gross income
- Citizenship status. The applicant must provide proof and all legal documentation to prove his/her citizenship status. Undocumented applicants are not eligible to file for section 8 vouchers.
- Family size
- Criminal record. The applicant is liable to provide a complete criminal record attested from the state. Any person who has ever been evicted by public housing or any other program because of criminal activity or any other drug-related activity then s/he is totally ineligible to apply for housing The person cannot apply for at least 3 years from his eviction date.
How to Apply for Section 8 Vouchers for Housing Assistance?
It is important to provide complete family information along with the details of family assets, income as well as the size of the family to the Public Housing Authority (PHA) while applying for section 8 vouchers. It is determined on this provided information whether the applicant will be eligible to receive the housing assistant voucher or not.
After the application has been submitted, it is advised to turn it in before the due date in order to rectify the chances of rejection of the application.
Waiting List of Section 8 Vouchers
If the applicant is eligible for housing assistance then s/he will be put on a waiting list. At times the wait can be as long as 2 years, in certain rare cases the applicant’s application gets approved immediately. Whenever the waiting is over and the application is processed for further steps, the PHA contacts the applicant and issues a section 8 housing voucher.
The waiting time is very common across the PHAs. Housing assistance needs are aggravating while the income levels are thinning and the applicants are applying in great numbers. At times it gets impossible for the PHA to accept the application round the year when they have a long waiting list already pending.
Some PHAs open up the acceptance of section 8 vouchers only for a few designated timeframes in order to minimize the number of applicants already waiting for the voucher approval.
Once the name is approved on the waiting list, the PHA will contact to confirm that you have made it to the list. If you are lucky you will be assisted immediately, else you need to wait for your turn. As soon as there is an opening, the PHA office will inform you.
PHA has the authority to select the people from the waiting list without their number on the list. There are certain criteria set by the local PHA to select the waiting applicants.
The key factors are:
- The living condition of the current housing is very substandard
- Applicant is homeless
- Has been displaced involuntarily that’s why in dire need of a house
- The rental payment has exceeded the 50% of the total gross income of the family; therefore, finding it very hard to make ends meet.
Preference is given to the families who qualify on the above-mentioned criteria by the local PHAs. These families have moved ahead of the already waiting applicants on the list. This cannot be challenged by any applicant as PHA has total authority to determine the preference selection on the basis of the needs and priorities of an individual as well as the community.
A family with low income must pay only 30 percent of their income on rent and other utilities that make roughly $50. The vouchers cover the remaining costs, no matter how much it is according to the “payment standard” set by the Public Housing Authority (PHA).
The PHA is liable to calculate the maximum amount of the voucher. The maximum amount is usually 30 percent of the family’s monthly income accrued and the adjustments can be made into it periodically.
The payment standard set by the PHA is the total cost of renting a house in a moderate-income area. The families are allowed to select a home in an area below or above the payment standard set by the PHA If they can manage to pay their financial liabilities as the applicant will be liable to pay the difference if the rent is more than the standard set by PHA.
The point to note here is that the applicant is obligated to pay only 30 percent of its gross income and cannot exceed over 40 percent of the monthly gross income in order to pay the rent and other basic necessities.
Section 8 Vouchers’ Value
According to the legislation, the vouchers processed under section 8 have a value equal to 30 percent of the household income or at least $50 for the rentals and other utilities, whichever is grossed more. The voucher will make payment for the rest of the costs of basic life according to the limit set by PHA.
Affordable Housing Options under Section 8 Program
The applicants of section 8 vouchers are given the freedom to choose any type of housing that is affordable. It can be a single-family house or an apartment or even a townhouse; it should meet the eligibility criteria of the housing program. PHA agents help the applicants in deciding the best available option while undergoing the search for houses.
Housing Vouchers under Section 8
PHA is liable to make monthly payments to the landowner directly on the applicant’s behalf once the housing facility is finalized. The difference between the actual payment charged by the landowner and the amount processed by the housing voucher is covered by the applicants.
Obligations of Section 8 Vouchers
The applicant signs a minimum 1-year lease program with the landlord after the house is selected under the program. The tenant is also required to make a security deposit before moving into the property. After the lease time is over, the landlord can initiate a new lease, renewing the program or it can allow the family to stay in the premises on a monthly rental basis.
The rules of the lease agreement are immediately applicable to the applicant and the family as soon as they move into the house are required to meet the housing program’s requirements like keeping the house in a good condition, paying the rent on time, and most importantly notifying the PHA of any changes which occur in the gross income of the household or a certain change in the family size.
While signing the contract, the applicants and their families are made liable not to indulge in any criminal or drug-related activities or commit fraud or bribery.
Family Definition according to Section 8
The family definition according to the section 8 voucher schemes is:
- Family without or with children: A family having a foster child or a child under their foster care on a temporary basis is still considered a member of the family.
- Displaced family: A displaced family according to section 8 is one which had all its members moved out of their own home by actions taken by the government or faced extreme damage to the home or in rare cases their home was destroyed by a natural calamity or disaster. The disaster must be recognized by the federal disaster relief laws in this scenario.
- Elderly family: An elderly family is a family whose head of the household is a minimum of 62 years of age, or a family with at least 2 members who are 62 years old.
- Disabled family: This is the term given to a family whose head of the household is disabled or has one or two members who are living with disabilities.
- The remaining member of the tenant family: This is the term given to a person who is still living in the house receiving the housing vouchers while the rest of the members of the family have moved out of the house.
- Single: A single person does not qualify for the section 8 vouchers
Families with different Citizenship
Families who have citizenship of another country or have immigration status only for a few members cannot apply for a section 8 voucher. This voucher is available for citizens of America only. The voucher amount is largely based upon the number of members of the family as well as the eligible immigration status.
The documents required to confirm the citizen status of the applying family are:
- Birth certificate of the family members
- Driver’s licenses for the eligible members
- Social security cards of all the members of the family
- Government or state-issued photo ID
- Immigration papers if it is already applied
- The verification of the immigrant status
The families are further required to provide proof for their income as well. For that, the following documents must be provided to PHA:
- Proof of income attached with the tax returns
- Social security verification number and proofs of the benefits which are being acquired
- Bank statements
- Information regarding gross income and the assets which are owned
- Public assistance benefits programs documentation.
Affordable Housing Programs
The applicant families for section 8 vouchers must choose the housing wisely as it must meet the requirements of the program as well as assist their financial needs in the long term as well. At times, a family decides to keep living in their current residence and get it financed by the section 8 vouchers.
There are certain requirements set by Housing Quality Standards (HQS) which provide guidelines to the applicant to choose their housing avenue accordingly.
There are 13 points covered by HQS. They are:
- Area and the surrounding neighborhood
- Availability of water
- Quality of air
- Electricity and power supply
- Working premises for kitchen and trash area
- Sanitation of washrooms
- Cleanliness and hygiene
- Material used
- House must be painted with lead-free paints
- Timely detection of smoke
- Easy access
The applying family has up to 60 days to find a house matching the requirement after they have received the voucher. The voucher can be used to pay the rent of new housing premises or the present one in which the applicant’s family is living.
In any of the above cases, the landowner must oblige to the housing choice voucher program’s regulations. The rent must be reasonable compared to the other houses in the area. The PHA is liable to determine the eligibility of the applicant according to the family size and composition.
Applicant’s Responsibilities being a Tenant of Section 8 Vouchers
The applicant who becomes a tenant once they acquire the housing premises under the jurisdiction of section 8 has a few obligations towards the housing program.
The tenant is supposed to pay the security deposit him/herself which the landlord might ask at the beginning of the lease. The tenant must oblige and follow all the rules which are stated by the PHA and inform the authority if any changes occur in the income of family composition. Tenants are liable to keep the house in good, livable condition. Under no circumstances, the family is allowed to indulge in violent or criminal activities or drug-related activities.
Obligations of Housing Authority
PHA is liable to assist all the housing finance requirements of the applicant and provide them complete assistance once they enter into a contract with the landlord. PHA holds the right to stop the payment vouchers if the landlord is unable to meet the requirements of the lease or the contract which holds all the conditions for the housing assistance.
PHA is obliged to execute and review the annual income as well as the composition of the applicant family. It can inspect the house anytime to assure that the aspects set by HQS are met and followed.
Can Section 8 Vouchers be used after moving out?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program Section 8 also provides the applicant families to move out with any changes in their voucher payment. The family is required to inform PHA about moving out beforehand.
Some PHA applicants are also given assistance in making payments towards mortgages for their new homes. Anyone who is a recipient of section 8 of the Housing Choice Voucher Program can participate in applying for the mortgage payment.
The customer service center for section 8 is always available to help in guiding for all the housing programs and their solutions.