Section 8 Rental Assistance Program: An Overview

Section 8 Rental Assistance Program


Unlike other animals, humans require some basic needs to be satisfied to maintain at least a minimal standard of living. We must have these fundamental necessities to exist, live, and flourish.

These demands drive our behavior, which in turn determines how we evolve. The shelter is one of those necessities.  Yet, not all human beings can meet this basic standard of living, so the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program was developed as a government intervention mechanism to help man meet this essential human need.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program also known as Section 8 is a federal government program for enabling low-income families, the disabled, and the elderly to afford housing.

  • In addition to receiving housing vouchers to assist with their rental payments, participants can select housing that complies with the program’s requirements

The federal rental assistance program is funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where very low-income individuals, families, the elderly, and the disabled receive assistance to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.

As stated, this assistance program is only intended to help elderly, disabled, and low-income families afford to house.

Thus, those who are qualified for this assistive program are provided with a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) After they are deemed eligible for the program by their local Public Housing Authority (PHA).

In What Ways Does Section 8 Assist with Housing Expenses?

Local public housing agencies (PHAs), which are supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), manage Section 8 housing vouchers.

The local PHA is responsible for setting the amount of housing assistance that a participant or participant’s family receives and for paying the landlord directly on the family’s behalf.

Yet, the program is only supportive, thus a participating person or family will equally contribute in some ways. Therefore a participating family must spend at least 30% of its monthly income on rent and utilities, according to HUD.

The PHA pays a housing subsidy directly to the landlord on behalf of the participating family.

What Programs are offered?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV) and the Project-Based Voucher Program (PBV), both of which fall under the general purview of Section 8 or the Housing Choice Voucher Program, are covered under these aid programs.

Both are managed by the government’s Housing and Development Unit, or HUD. Although they have many things in common, they also differ in some ways.

Both programs have strict eligibility requirements that are mostly focused on family size and income because they are only available to low-income people who need help paying their rent.

Project-Based Voucher Program

As opposed to the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the project-based voucher program is linked to certain units inside a larger complex.

And what we mean by that is straightforward: the vouchers for this are not provided to the tenant, but rather are attached to the specific unit under a contract with the unit owners.

The affordable housing units included in this program are those whose landlords have agreements with state or local public housing authorities to rent the apartments to low-income families and individuals.

As part of the project-based voucher program, PHA contracts with the owner to assist a set number of units over a set period. To fill openings, the PHA refers families from its waiting list to the project owner. A family who leaves the project-based unit has no rights to continued housing assistance because the aid is linked to the unit.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program

The program for tenant-based housing is by far the biggest. Almost 2.3 million American households have benefited from its aid, which includes housing help and community improvement.

It provides more flexibility in terms of where a participant might live after being accepted into the program than the project-based one does. In terms of price, it could be more expensive for a candidate than the project-based one.

  • For instance, a project-based payment may not exceed 30% of an applicant’s income, although an applicant’s income contribution may exceed 30% for the housing voucher program.

How to Apply for the Program

Get in touch with your neighborhood PHA to apply for a housing voucher. Unless the PHA can help you straight away, you can be put on a waiting list if your application is accepted. Find your local HUD office for more assistance.

How to Qualify for Section 8 Housing

The eligibility for Section 8 is based on four major requirements. A household must meet these requirements to be considered eligible for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher by a local Public Housing Authority also known as a PHA.

These 4 main requirements are:

  • Type of Household
  • Financial Status
  • Citizenship Status
  • Background, Rental, and Criminal History

Type of Household

Any candidate must first and foremost provide a detailed description of their family status. A family as a unit is defined by The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a group of people who live together; a single person, who may be elderly, disabled, near-elderly, or any other single person.

A family, whether it has children or not (a child who is temporarily away from the family because they have been placed in foster care is considered a member of the family), a family that is elderly or nearly so, a family that is disabled, a family that has been uprooted, or the last tenant family member are examples of this group.

Furthermore, a family consists of “two or more individuals who are not related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other operation of law but who either can demonstrate that they have lived together previously or certify that each individual’s income and other resources will be available to meet the needs of the family.

The aforementioned makes it obvious that a family does not necessarily consist of blood relatives; hence, individuals, single people, and roommates might be deemed a family by HUD. So, the term “household” could better explain how HUD defines a family.

When one or more family members are indicated as the head of the household on the application for a Housing Choice Voucher and are at least 62 years old, the household is considered to be senior or elderly. A senior household can also be used to describe such a family.

While a handicapped household is one where at least one of the heads of the household mentioned on the Housing Choice Voucher application is disabled.

Financial Status

Housing choice voucher eligibility is heavily influenced by a family’s income level in proportion to the local area median income because the main objective of Section 8 is to help low-income family earners pay rent.

The HUD gives local PHAs three fundamental grade levels to employ in establishing an applicant’s income level.

  • Extremely low-income: This consists of families who apply for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher with an income level that is 30% of the area’s median income levels.
  • Very Low-income: These are applicants whose income is 50% of the area’s median income.
  • Low-income: These are applicants with income that is the equivalent of 80% of the area’s median income levels.

It is important to note that the PHA will heavily rely on the family size provided on a section 8 Housing Choice Voucher application to determine which income level is assigned to the applicant.

  • For instance, a family with numerous adults earning a total of $50k would be regarded as having a lesser income than a household with only one adult earning $40k.

Furthermore, the HUD has mandated that applicants who are regarded as severely low-income shall receive the majority of section 8 resources.

What Amounts to Family’s Earnings?

The primary source of money for the PHA is what must be declared on taxes, which inevitably has an impact on the income levels of households.

Salary, commissions, tips, investments, inheritances, insurance payouts, settlements from legal proceedings, retirement, social security, disability, welfare payments, workers’ compensation awards, etc. are some examples of these sources of income.

  • It should be noted that only adults applying are obligated to disclose their income.

Status of Citizenship Qualification

A potential recipient of a section 8 Housing Choice Voucher must be a US citizen or have an acceptable immigration status to qualify. You must also follow these instructions for the local PHA to verify if your family qualifies for Section 8 benefits even though you are not a US citizen:

  1. A signed document stating that you have eligible immigration.
  2. Immigration and Naturalization Service documents (INS).
  3. Agree and sign a release of your INS information that will be used for the sole purpose of determining your section 8 eligibility.

Criminal History, Rental History, And Background.

All family members’ criminal histories and records will be thoroughly investigated. Several criminal offenses will automatically disqualify an application.

Which are:

  • Family members who have been evicted from a home in the last three years due to drug-related convictions will not be eligible for section 8 housing.
  • Any members of the family who have been found guilty of producing meth in subsidized housing are ineligible.
  • Any family member must be permanently registered as a sex offender due to their crimes.

According to HUD’s regulations, each PHA will interview applicants for section 8 housing choice vouchers and follow its qualification process. Other forms of paperwork will also be required to support the eligibility requirements.

These records could be birth certificates, salary stubs, or tax returns. Contact your local Public Housing Authority to get the application and learn more about the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program and its criteria.

On the website of the nearby Public Housing Authority, you can find some information.

What Is Section 8’s Income Limit?

Specifics about the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher income cap vary from city to city and country to country. For instance, the income threshold in California and Los Angeles is different. So, a candidate must establish contact with the neighborhood’s Public Housing Authority.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) often publishes the median income levels on a federal scale, but they usually contain locally low-income limitations, and the local Public Housing Authority uses these limits to establish eligibility.

Very low-income (equal to 30% of the median area income), very low-income (equivalent to 50% of the median area income), and low-income (equivalent to 80% of the median area income) are the annual income restrictions set by HUD based on family size.

Only households that fulfill the extremely low and very low-income requirements are qualified for Section 8 aid.

However, the low-income restrictions are only applied when owners switch from a project-based scheme to a tenant-based program, under certain conditions.

Also, 75% of the program’s vouchers—i.e., those with earnings below 30% of the median region income—must be awarded to applicants from extremely low-income households, according to Public Housing.

Discrimination in Section 8 Housing

Regrettably, discrimination still exists in Section 8 housing. Discrimination in housing can take many different forms, including discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, as well as poor income, disabilities, and even having children.

Despite their ability to pay the rent, this housing discrimination might occasionally keep voucher holders from being taken into account for an apartment.

Thankfully, housing advocates and the Biden administration are actively working to improve outdated legislation and ensure that Section 8 residents are protected from all types of discrimination under Section 8 Housing Vouchers.

Including inclusionary zoning is one of the ways the Biden administration aims to reduce housing discrimination. A mixed-income neighborhood is encouraged and produced by inclusionary zoning, which refers to policies and practices that seek to provide incentives for the inclusion of affordable housing units in new developments.

At the same time, the supply of affordable housing is increased. Additionally, it aims to promote inclusivity and economic diversity in the housing industry.

Inclusionary zoning regulations were initially created to particularly combat a lengthy history of “exclusionary zoning” regulations that consolidated racial and economic division.

Also, the Biden administration plans to put an end to “redlining” to combat discrimination in Section 8 housing. Redlining is the practice of denying or charging extra for the same services based on a person’s color, ethnicity, religion, or any other factor.

The HUD provided examples of what constitutes housing discrimination on their website: Examples of housing discrimination.

Finally, the Public Housing Authority treats matters or issues relating to housing discrimination seriously and urgently. So, if you have any house relating complaints, it is of great importance to file a complaint with your PHA office as soon as possible.

People with Disabilities and Their Particular Needs

Apart from prejudice, people with disabilities have unique needs that must be satisfied if they are to benefit fully from the housing help that these programs provide.

Without appropriate changes or accommodations, their usage and enjoyment of their homes may be severely hampered. As a result, it is now required by law for landlords to make reasonable accommodations and modifications where they are needed. And the numerous anti-discrimination statutes deserve credit for this.

A landlord is required to revise his rules and procedures or make any necessary revisions. For this, the reasonableness test still applies, meaning that the accommodations required must be reasonable.

To sum up, reasonable modifications and adjustments are required for people with disabilities to use and enjoy their houses. Their request can be made in the absence of them using a fairly simple procedure.

Either write to your PHA and ask for the adjustment or reasonable accommodation you need or have an informal hearing with the PHA.

By Ashley T

As a professional writer, I enjoy researching Benefit Programs and writing articles and guides that are easy to follow for those who are in need of assistance.


  1. I am 65 in retirement. I can no longer afford to pay the rent in present apartment. How can I get help fast. I am about to be evicted. I have tried to contact various agencies, with no results. Please help.

    1. Hello Raymond.

      I am sorry to hear that! I understand. You can actually get help through Section 202-Housing for the Elderly Program.

      To apply for Section 202 you may contact your local PHA office and ask if they have a list with Section 202 properties available, check property rental websites such as Zillow, or if you know of a Section 202 property, give them a visit or call and ask for their application process.

      To know more about this program, you can visit the article here:

      All the best!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *