Section 8 Frequently Asked Questions
What is Section 8?
Section 8, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a Federal housing program that provides housing assistance to low-income renters and homeowners. This assistance comes in the form of rental subsidies, limiting the monthly rent payment of the assistance recipient.
How do I qualify for Section 8?
To qualify for Section 8 you must be a low-income person (below 50% of the Area Median Income).
Where do I apply for Section 8?
Section 8 is a Federal program administered nationally by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, the program is administered locally by public housing authorities or other designated agencies and organizations. Use the search tool below to find the public housing authority that administers Section 8 in your area.
How much rent will I have to pay if I have a Section 8 voucher?
Your rent payment is based on your income. The voucher will pay anything above 30% of your adjusted monthly income up to an established limit. For example, if you earn $2,000 per month and the home you want rents for $900 per month, you would pay $600 and the voucher would cover the difference of $300 as long as the Fair Market Rent for your area is equal to or greater than $900.
Can I choose an apartment with rent higher than the Fair Market Rent established by HUD?
Yes. But you will have to pay any additional rent charges in excess of the Fair Market Rent. So, if the Fair Market Rent for the area is $800 and the apartment you want rents for $1,000 you will have to pay $200 in addition to 30% of your adjusted income.
How long does it take to get a voucher?
It varies. The Section 8 program has historically been oversubscribed and waiting lists can run into the years. In fact, many housing authorities frequently close their waiting lists and stop accepting applications because the waiting lists are so long. To find out about wait times in your area call your local public housing authority. Use the search tool above to locate the housing authority serving your area.
How do I find a home once I have my voucher?
So you have your voucher. Now comes the fun part. You go shopping for an apartment. You may use your voucher with any property that accepts Section 8. Many landlords accept Section 8 because it is a dependable revenue stream and Section 8 tenants tend to better than average. But, landlords are not required by law to accept Section 8 vouchers. In recent years, in many areas, conventional rental rates have outpaced Fair Market Rents making renting to Section 8 voucher holders less attractive.
When you find an apartment or home that meets all Section 8 program requirements including a physical inspection to insure the building is decent, safe and sanitary, the housing authority executes a contract with the landlord to pay rent on your behalf.
Do I have to rent an apartment in the same city or county where I received my Section 8 voucher?
No. Section 8 vouchers are “portable”. So, once you receive a voucher, you can take it anywhere in the United States that has a public housing authority which can administer the voucher. You can literally receive a voucher in Mississippi and move to Hawaii with it.
What’s the difference between tenant-based and project-based Section 8?
Tenant-based vouchers are attached to you as a tenant. A project-based voucher is attached to a particular property. If you live in a unit with a project-based voucher and you move, the Section 8 stays with the property and the next tenant uses the voucher. With a tenant-based voucher, you can take it anywhere as long as the home you wish to rent accepts Section 8 and meets the standards of the Section 8 program.
Can I use Section 8 to pay my monthly mortgage payment if I buy a home?
Recently, the Section 8 program was modified to allow Section 8 to help pay mortgage payments for qualified first-time homebuyers. To qualify, you must be a first-time homebuyer, have a household income of at least $10,300, been continuously employed for one-year (except for elderly or disabled persons), attend a homeownership counseling course and meet any other restrictions imposed by the local housing authority. Local public housing authorities may choose to implement a homeownership voucher program if they wish but are not required to. To find out if the homeownership voucher is offered in your area call your local housing authority. To locate your local housing authority use the search tool above.