Section 8 is a federal government program designed to help low-income families find safe and affordable housing. The program works by providing housing vouchers to qualifying families, which those families can then use to pay a portion of their rent. Because the government only provides a rental subsidy, it does not restrict which buildings the families can live in. Recipients are free to choose their own housing as long as it satisfies the safety standards and the landlord is willing to accept Section 8 vouchers.
Like all federal government programs, the Section 8 program can be vast and confusing. If the federal government funds the program, why do applicants have to apply to individual districts? Who qualifies for the program, and what are the preferences in each state? There are many questions that new applicants and even old voucher holders still have about how the program works, which is why there are so many Section 8 FAQs.
1. How does Section 8 work?
Section 8 housing works by supplying federal housing vouchers to low-income families. While it may be a national program, each branch of the program is administered by a different state office that handles residents of that state. Additionally, each office has a set list of preferences in applicants, and may offer faster service to those families. Some examples may be a homeless family or a family with young children. For the purposes of Section 8, a family is a group of people who live together and share expenses. There is no requirement to prove relationships.
The value of the family’s housing voucher is based on that family’s size and income as well as the cost of living in that particular district. For example, a family receiving Section 8 in New York is likely to receive a higher value than a family receiving Section 8 in Iowa, based on the relative costs of living.
2. Who qualifies for Section 8 housing?
Section 8 eligibility is determined by income and family size. The income standards for the program are set by each individual public housing authority based on the common earning for that area and is adjusted for the size of the family. For example, a family of eight may have a higher monthly income than a family of four, but both could still be eligible for Section 8 based on the comparative needs of the household. There are three income classifications for eligible families: low income, very low income and extremely low income. Housing authorities are legally required to give 75 percent of their new vouchers to those with extremely low income.
In the Section 8 application process, the housing authority will collect bank statements, the value of any of the family’s assets, proof of identity and other documents. Once the family is determined eligible, they will put on a waiting list or assisted immediately, depending on the demands in the area and the limitations of the housing authority.
3. What are Section 8 apartments?
Section 8 apartments and Section 8 houses for rent are the privately-owned rental options that exist for low-income families. Section 8 apartments are available in buildings where the landlord accepts Section 8 vouchers as a form of payment. A family may find a unit in a Section 8 building or a mixed-use building where some of the units can be paid with Section 8 and some cannot.
Finding a Section 8 apartment, townhouse or house for rent is similar to finding any other home. However, after the family has selected a unit that suits their needs and that accepts Section 8, the unit must be inspected by the local housing authority before the family can move in.
4. How long after a Section 8 inspection can I move in?
After the local public housing authority has inspected the family’s chosen apartment, the tenant can move in as soon as two to four weeks after the unit is approved.
A Section 8 apartment will be evaluated for safety and cleanliness, and the housing authority employee will look for issues such as lead-based paint. If the unit fails, the family and the landlord will be notified as to why, and they are given a chance to make repairs or appeal the decision.
5. Can you transfer Section 8 to another city?
When and how you can move with Section 8 is a common housing authority question. Because HUD Section 8 is a federal program, beneficiaries may be eligible to maintain their Section 8 benefits if they move cities or states. However, a family that moves from one housing authority district to another may not receive the same benefit amount or even be eligible by the earning standards in that state.
To move, the family must submit a transfer request to the local housing authority and be approved to transfer their benefits. Further, if the housing authority in the new city or state is not accepting new housing applicants, the family may be placed on a waiting list before they can receive housing choice vouchers.
6. Are Section 8 and HUD the same?
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the national government agency that runs the Section 8 program. As such, the two are often compared and HUD is occasionally used when referring to Section 8. For example, someone might say “HUD housing voucher” instead of “Section 8 housing voucher.”
However, HUD and Section 8 are not exactly one in the same. HUD is the agency and Section 8 is the program.
7. Is low-income housing the same as Section 8?
While Section 8 is a prominent low-income housing solution, it is not the only one. The public housing program is also low-income housing, and it is also overseen by HUD. In addition, there are more than 300 state and city-specific housing programs that are being funded by local governments.
The Section 8 program and the public housing program are both low-income housing, but they are not exactly the same and a reference to low-income housing could mean either of them.