When your paycheck isn’t enough, making rent is a burden. This year is especially difficult since rent prices are going up in nearly every state, with 5 percent as the least hike and 45.8 percent as the highest jump for a one-bedroom apartment. Can an application for Section 8 housing help and how do you qualify?
What’s Section 8 Housing?
Section 8 is the federal government rent assistance program. Currently renamed as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, it is intended to help very low income families pay some or all of their rent. Public housing agencies, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in different states administer the voucher program.
When it was enacted into law, the Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act in 1974 was designed for low-income families to live in decent, safe and sanitary housing. And that meant not settling for public housing developments, which aren’t always suitable for families with small children.
With the housing choice voucher program, families earning low wages pick the rental property and inform their local housing agency. The local housing agency will then pay the housing subsidy directly to the landlord.
What is the Most Section 8 will Pay?
An application for Section 8 housing, on average, pays 60 percent to 70 percent of the rent. That means that a family pays 30 percent to 40 percent of their income on their rent. Forty percent is the standard cap for what low income families pay with their actual rent.
HUD reportedly doesn’t set rent limits, so what it does is place a cap on the family’s contribution toward their Section 8 housing at 40 percent. This cap then allows families who have applied for Section 8 housing broader options for rental properties and locations. You could then find a proper two-bedroom apartment, for instance, in a safe, pleasant neighborhood, making the rental place feel like home without worrying about the monthly payments.
But how do people apply for Section 8? What is the process for application?
How Do You Qualify for the Federal Government’s Major Program?
As mentioned, the rent housing assistance payment is for people (not just families) with low wages based on annual income. The income requirement, however, is different with each housing authority in each location.
So there are no definite amounts or income limits tell applicants for Section 8 housing.
Although the rules for qualifying for subsidized housing projects vary with each state, some general requirements apply:
Applications for housing assistance go through background checks. Qualified beneficiaries must not have a felony record or are on parole. People on a sex offender registry are also not qualified to apply for housing vouchers; that includes anyone staying in the home.
The person applying for subsidized rent must have eligible immigration status, or at least one member who will live in the home must have proper documentation to live in the US.
Once you’ve met the corresponding requirements, contact your local housing authority
So how is the application for Section 8 housing different in different locations?
How to Qualify for Section 8 in New Jersey
Application for housing assistance payments in New Jersey starts with a pre-qualification appointment. You must bring the following documents:
- Verification of your address
- Proof of your or the family’s income
- Utility bills
Once this phase of you pass the pre-qualification, your documents are sent to the HUD for final approval. The process may take up to 90 days.
How to qualify for Section 8 in San Diego
Section 8 is only one of the federal government’s major program in San Diego. The California city has standard requirements.
Names, social security numbers and birth dates of all family members
Annual income of all family members must be supplied
- You must live or work in San Diego
- Annual income must be less than 80 percent of San Diego’s Area Median Income (AMI)
- Veterans and active-duty military
- Low-income seniors age 62 or older
- People with disabilities
- Homeless families and individuals
How to Qualify for Section 8 in Chicago
As with most applications for housing assistance payments, applications in Illinois are sent to the HUD for final approval. It could take a few weeks, or in some counties, like Cook County, your application may be in the waiting list since the county is closed to new applicants.
To qualify, you must:
- Meet the income limit
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant
- Pass a general screening
- Fulfill the interview process
- Provide adequate proof of residence, with a photo ID and other documents
How to Qualify for Section 8 in Las Vegas
The State of Nevada offers plenty of housing choice vouchers; Southern Nevada, for instance, has over 11,000. It currently provides rental assistance to 38,000 people.
To qualify, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Belong to specified categories of non-citizens with eligible immigration status
- Have a family income not exceeding 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where you choose to live
How to Qualify for Section 8 in DC
Those who apply for housing vouchers in DC may find it easier to choose their suitable housing unit. The state offers multiple resources where residents find accessible, affordable rental homes that participate in programs that provide housing assistance payments. This eliminates the need to ask landlords if they’re open to accepting housing subsidy as rent payments.
To apply, get in touch with the D.C. Housing Authority and make an appointment with the Client Placement Division.
Do Subsidized Housing Projects Have a Waiting List?
Unfortunately, most affordable housing vouchers have a waiting list with long waiting periods. Thousands of people and families could be in a single list. The wait is projected to be at a minimum of one year to a maximum of ten years.
The elderly and homeless are generally the priorities in waiting lists. The program also determines who to take from the list by the application date.
So the Housing Choice Voucher Program isn’t a good “choice” if you need emergency housing. Most states will have a dedicated program for residents who need housing assistance immediately, like shelters and transitional housing.
What Properties Meet the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
Under the Housing choice voucher program, people can choose from:
- Single family homes
Although a housing voucher may not bear the set amount of rent, the HUD determines the eligible family’s housing unit through fair market rent. The housing assistance may tempt you into choosing a posh home in a posh neighborhood since you’ll only be paying part of the rent. But the housing unit must fall under the fair market rent in your location.
Some cities, like Chicago, have a separate program for people with more flexibility to go with neighborhoods providing more opportunities with schools, transportation and employment.
It’s better to go with a moderately priced dwelling unit in a good location because your contribution of the rent goes up with the price of the property. And you must factor in payments for utilities, so you don’t end up paying more to live in the participating housing unit than you anticipated.
What Happens When Your Housing Assistance Application is Approved?
Once the HUD stamps its final approval, you’ll have about 60 days to find a suitable housing unit. Sixty days is likely to be the minimum for most states since authorities take into account the lives and schedules of its participating families.
Some applicants may work long hours, others could be single parents with limited resources. So finding an adequate rental property that meets the program’s housing quality standards will take some time. If this applies to you, ask the housing agency for further assistance or for an extension on your deadline.
Other applicants face rejection from landlords that don’t accept Section 8 housing subsidy; some rental ads may even specify this denial. About 14 states have passed a law banning this practice, which discriminate against very low income families and persons.
What Other Options Do Very Low-Income Families Have?
Federal government websites provide full information on what housing assistance programs are available to qualified people. Some programs are specific to people. In San Diego, the city offers:
Non-Elderly Persons with Disabilities Program
For those under 62 with one or more disabilities,. and have difficulties securing accessible rental housing.
Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing
It provides rental assistance to homeless veterans.
Special Rental Assistance Programs
Designed for specific developments or for low-income households with specific needs.
In DC, the city helps low income families and individuals through:
Inclusionary Zoning Affordable Housing Lottery (IZ)
Income restrictions apply to this housing lottery, which places families and individuals in affordable rental properties or for-sale homes.
Housing Assistance Payment Program
Applicable to tenants displaced by the conversion of their apartment building into a condominium or cooperative.
Many other programs are developed for people who need assistance payments toward their rent; some programs are meant for people who need financial help when buying a home.
The cost of living in America is rising, and along with it rental prices (among others). If life on the go or living in a van is not a housing option, look into your eligibility for a Section 8 housing.