What Does Section 8 Mean?
Section 8 refers to a section of federal subsidized housing created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Section 8 was created to assist low-income families, disabled households and the elderly, afford a clean and safe home in the private sector. Qualified applicants are provided with a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) After they are deemed eligible for the program by their local Public Housing Authority (PHA).
If you are low income, and need rental assistance, there are two Section 8 programs that can help. Both programs are run through HUD, the government’s Housing and Development unit.
Section 8 is how these rental assistance programs are commonly referred to, but they are actually called the Housing Choice Voucher Program, or HCV, and Project-Based Voucher Program, or PBV.
The Project Based Voucher Program is actually a sub-section of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Both programs require an applicant to meet eligibility guidelines based primarily on income and family size. It is likely that if you and your family qualify for other government programs, such as SNAP, you might qualify for one of these Section 8 housing programs.
You should contact your local Public Housing Authority, or investigate income limits on the HUD website to learn more about eligibility, if you think you qualify.
Most people in the Section 8 Project Based Voucher Program[su_highlight background=”#deffe9″]have incomes under 30% of the median household income[/su_highlight]. Applicants accepted into the Project Based Section 8 program are expected to pay 30% of their income as rent, and then the balance of the rent is paid for from the government program.
Section 8 housing applicant s for the Project Based Voucher Program should also be aware that their criminal history, credit history, and history with other government housing programs will be investigated when they apply for the affordable housing.
One of the main differences between Section 8 Project Based housing, and the parent program – the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is that the affordable housing in the project based program, are tied units within privately held buildings that the Public Housing Authority has contracted with to make them into affordable housing (typically for a period of 15-30 years).
The vouchers for this Section 8 housing are not given to the tenant, like in the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program, but are instead tied to the unit, and contracted with the owners of the units.
So, this Section 8 program is tied to specific units within a larger building. The applicant is accepted into the unit from a waiting list, based on the income requirements, family size, and other investigated factors.
Since the housing program is tied to the unit, not the applicant, if the applicant moves out of that unit, the applicant may need to re-apply for a different Section 8 or affordable housing program to re-qualify.
If the applicant has been in the Project Based Voucher program, in that unit, for more than one year, the applicant may be able to transfer their voucher to another unit within the community, but it cannot be taken to a different building or unit of his or her choice.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides greater freedom of choice on where an applicant can live once accepted to the program, but may require higher income contributions towards rent payment, whereas the Section 8 Project-Based Voucher Program does not go above 30% of the applicant’s income.
How Do You Qualify for Section 8 Housing?
Eligibility for Section 8 housing is based first and foremost on income levels. These income levels are determined locally, and vary by city, county, and municipality. The applicant for the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program may be defined as low income, very low income, or extremely low income. Generally, Section 8 recipients are those that earn less than 50% of the area’s middle income level. The Section 8 application will also look at family size, citizenship and/or legal status in the United States, the criminal background of anyone on the application (not just the primary applicant), and the eviction history. Documentation will need to be supplied to support these eligibility requirements. Those documents may include tax returns, pay stubs, or birth certificates. To obtain the application, and learn more about the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program, and the requirements, an applicant should reach out to his or her local Public Housing Authority. Some information may be found on the local Public Housing Authority website.
What is the Income Limit for Section 8?
Income limits for the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program are specific to different cities and counties. It is really important to contact the local Public Housing Authority where you want to live if you are considering applying for a Section 8 Housing Voucher. HUD, or the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, puts out the median income levels on a federal scale, but then locally low income limits are determined as well, and those are what will be used by the local Public Housing Authority to determine eligibility. Generally speaking, an applicant for Section 8 will qualify if his or her income is less that 50% of the local area’s median income. However, Public Housing is required to give 75% of the program’s vouchers to those from extremely low income families, meaning those with incomes less than 30% of the median area income. It is not uncommon, even with qualifying income limits to be placed on a waiting list.
Discrimination in Section 8 Housing
Unfortunately, discrimination comes in many forms. Housing discrimination happens often and sometimes under our very nose and we don’t even notice. Housing discrimination can be in the form of race, gender, sexuality and religion, and we must also include discrimination because of low income, disability, and even having children. This discrimination can sometimes block voucher holders from even being considered for an apartment, regardless of their ability to pay the rent. Fortunately, housing advocates and the Biden administration are working on changing old laws and making new ones so that Section 8 tenants are protected from all forms of discrimination under Section 8 housing vouchers. One of the ways the Biden administration plans on ending housing discrimination is by incorporating inclusionary zoning, which means that a portion of any new construction, or a certain percentage of units, will be set aside for affordable housing, since this was another form of discrimination. He also plans to put a stop to “redlining”, which is when people are denied services or get charged more money for the same services, due to their race, ethnicity or religion. The Public Housing Authority deals with situations of housing discrimination a lot and take these accusations seriously. If you have a complaint or feel like you may have been discriminated against for any reason, it is important to file a complaint with your PHA office as soon as possible. The HUD provides examples of housing discrimination HERE.
Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications for People with Disabilities
When referring to housing, accommodations mean an exception or change to a landlord’s rules, policies, or practices and a modification is a physical change to a building, rental unit, or common area. Thanks to disability discrimination laws, to provide people with disabilities an equal opportunity to properly use housing, landlords must provide reasonable accommodations and modifications when necessary. Keep in mind they must be reasonable! This means that they don’t affect the use of the property for future tenants and don’t put too much burden on the landlord. Another important thing to point out is that the tenant is only responsible of covering any accommodations, but if the changes you require are modifications, you are responsible for paying for them.
Requesting Reasonable Accommodations/ Modifications
Requesting reasonable accommodations or modifications isn’t a very complicated process. Your first step should be to write an email or letter to your PHA requesting the reasonable accommodation or modification you require.
This letter should explain that you are disabled, the ways in which your disability affects your ability to use and enjoy your home and what type of accommodation or modification you require. If your disability isn’t apparent, you should include a letter from your doctor or health care professional explaining your need for the accommodation or modification you requested.
Finally, send your letter and don’t forget to keep a copy for yourself. If your request for reasonable accommodations or modifications is denied you can request an informal hearing with the PHA, but keep in mind that the option of an informal hearing can vary since each PHA has local rules and regulations that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and some have a deadline for requesting a formal hearing.