There are a few eligibility requirements you’d have to meet to qualify for Section 8. The PHA will use these factors to determine whether you should get a voucher or not. As a way to make these requirements easy for you to understand, we’ve broken them up into parts. That way you can easily weigh your chances of acquiring a voucher
Choice of Housing
A good first step to take in determining your eligibility is deciding where you’d like to live. This is important because housing authorities differ according to location, and each housing authority may have its unique Section 8 rules and requirements.
Once you’ve decided on the area you’d like to live in, you should get in touch with the housing authority of that area and find out about their requirements. You could find the contact information of your local housing authority through the HUD website. Know that you don’t have to already live in the area of your choice before applying to the PHA.
Income Limit Guidelines
Since the main purpose of Section 8 is to fend for those who don’t earn enough to afford decent housing, the income limit of a family is a very important qualification factor. In order to qualify for this program, your family’s income must be below a certain amount.
The income limits set by HUD are divided into three categories – Extremely Low Income which includes those who make 30 percent of the area’s median income, Very Low Income which includes those who earn 50 percent of the area’s median income, and Low Income which includes those who make 80 percent of the area’s median income.
Income limits for different states and housing authorities often vary, and these income limits are adjusted every year by the HUD to account for inflation. Your PHA will determine if you meet the income limits by considering every form of your household’s adjusted income and comparing it with the median income of that area.
Typically, most PHAs consider households who fall within the Extremely Low-Income category before the Very Low-Income earners, and then the Low-Income earners. You can use the HUD’s online tool to determine which income limit category your household falls under.
Even if you meet the income requirements at the initial stages and are granted Section 8 assistance, the PHA will verify your income every year to be sure you still qualify. For this reason, it’s important to report any substantial changes to your income or family size.
HUD’s definition of a ‘family’ or ‘household’ is quite broad and includes individuals or groups of people who may or may not be related by blood, registered under a single housing voucher. A family could fall under any of the following categories:
- A household with at least one member that’s above 62 years of age.
- A household with at least one member that has a documented disability.
- A household comprising of numerous members with or without children.
- A household that has been displaced from their home by factors beyond their control such as natural disasters, government action, or physical damage.
- A person remaining in a housing unit where they received housing choice vouchers with other members of a household who have now moved out.
- A single person living alone and doesn’t necessarily meet any of the above criteria.
Although these are the general guidelines that have been set by HUD, local housing authorities have the power to add any other qualification requirements they deem appropriate.
Your household income includes money earned by every adult member of the household. The PHA will consider income gotten from different sources including
- hourly wages,
- overtime pay,
- child support,
- dividends from assets,
- retirement fund,
- social security,
- veteran benefits,
- rental property income
- lottery winnings,
- worker’s compensation, and more.
Other sources of income considered by the PHA along with exclusions can be seen on the Housing Choice Voucher Guidebook. It’s very important to report all sources of your household’s income when making your application because your total income along with your household size will help determine the appropriate amount you should pay for rent.
Typically, the bigger your household size, the higher the amount of money your household can earn and still qualify for Section 8. If you’d like to know the qualifying income limit for your household income and size, you can request an income limit chart for household sizes from your PHA.
How to Find an Area’s Median Income
The Area Median Income (AMI) describes the average income for the households in a particular region. You can say that the AMI of an area is the income of the middle household if you were to arrange the households in ascending order from poorest to richest.
The HUD calculates the median income for each region of the country on a yearly basis, using estimates derived from the American Community Survey. Since household income limits vary by size of the family, the HUD adjusts the AMI for different household sizes with the help of a formula.
Once the AMI of a region has been determined, it serves as a measuring factor as to whether a family needs housing assistance or not. A family who earns less than 80 percent of the AMI is considered as low income, a family who earns less than 50 percent is considered very low income, and a family who earns less than 30 percent is considered extremely low income.
When you apply for a housing choice voucher, the PHA will compare your household’s income to any of the above AMI percentages.
If you’d like to know for yourself which percentage of the AMI your household falls under, all you have to do is calculate your family’s gross income (that is all income earned before taxes) and use the HUD tool to determine where your calculated household income falls.
To do that, simply select a state of your choice and click ‘View State Calculations’ and you will see a list of the area’s median income limits. You also have the option to view the income limits according to the county.
To qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher program, you must be a U.S citizen or have eligible immigration status. Every member of your household will be required to submit documentation to confirm their citizenship or immigration status.
In some cases, you’ll need to present a U.S passport and a Social Security or Green card when you start your application. You may also need to sign a declaration that confirms that every member of your household is a U.S citizen. For households with children, your PHA may request copies of their birth certificates.
If you happen to have members within your household that aren’t citizens or eligible immigrants or cannot provide documents to prove their citizenship or immigration status, you may still receive housing assistance. However, your benefits will only be calculated based on the number of people able to provide the necessary documents of proof. This usually results in an assistance amount lower than needed.
Social Security Number
The PHA may request your Social Security Number either at the beginning of your Section 8 application for initial consideration or in the middle for continuing eligibility. In many states, it is required that you provide SSN cards for every member of your household.
In such cases, any household member who doesn’t have an SSN will be required to sign a declaration that they have none, and the PHA will accept other documentation that shows proof of eligible immigration status. If a member of your household happens to have lost their SSN card, the PHA will also accept other documentation to prove their eligible immigration status.
Since one of the main goals of the Section 8 program is to provide safe housing for low-income earners, a background check is carried out on every applicant. If anyone in your household has a criminal record, especially if the member has been convicted of a crime only within the past five years, securing a voucher may be very difficult.
Housing authorities usually have different rules surrounding background checks. It is possible to still get a voucher if you are a felon or if you’re on parole, but it’s important you contact your PHA for certainty. Some PHAs may accept households with a criminal history depending on how long ago the offense happened and the intensity of the crime.
If, however, you or a member of your household has been convicted of producing methamphetamine in any federal housing program, evicted within the past three years for drug-related reasons, or registered as a lifelong sex offender, your application will be denied immediately.
Can College Students Receive Section 8 Vouchers?
College students can receive Section 8 housing assistance if they are above the age of 24 and
- a veteran of the US military,
- married, or
- a parent of a dependent child.
Ideally, such students must meet all other basic eligibility requirements as an individual. You may still qualify for Section 8 as a college student below the age of 24 if you are married, have a dependent child, or are a veteran, and can prove that you have been living independently for at least 12 months.
If however, you don’t meet the age requirement and any of the above-mentioned criteria and still wish to apply for housing assistance, then you will have to include the income and other details of your family in your application. In such cases, if your family is not income-eligible for Section 8, then you can’t get assistance.