Low-income families throughout the United States can apply for Section 8 to ask for help with housing costs. Once a person is in the program, they get housing choice vouchers to help pay their rent every month. The federal government pays for this program, but local public housing agencies (PHAs) across each state are the ones that process applications and give out vouchers.
To apply for Section 8, you have to fill out the application and turn it in to your PHA. The rules for Section 8 are not the same everywhere. The place you want to live has special rules for Section 8. Different places have different rules because not every place is the same. Some PHAs only let you apply online, but others will let you apply in person or by mail. Learning how to apply for Section 8 before you apply can help you get your application ready faster and help you get it right. Find out more about applying for this program and get helpful tips below.
When can I submit a Section 8 application?
The right time to submit a Section 8 housing application depends on the PHA you want to apply to. Some PHAs will take applications all year and give you benefits faster than others, especially in places where not as many people live.
But a lot of PHAs can only take new applicants during different windows of time because a lot of people need help. This usually happens in places where a lot of people live, like in big cities.
When a lot of people have applied for help, PHAs might close their waiting lists until everyone on the list has gotten help. In some places, there are people that have been waiting for a long time, so the PHA might not know how long it will be until it accepts applications again.
When you are ready to apply for Section 8 housing, you need to make sure that the PHA where you want to live is letting people apply. PHAs have to post a notice to tell you when their waiting lists are open or closed.
What documents do I need to apply for Section 8?
No matter which PHA you want to use, there is certain information you have to give them. You have to give them documents to show you are allowed to apply for the program.
Whether you can get Section 8 benefits depends on different things like citizenship status, family size, and how much money you and your family that lives with you make. Make sure you have these documents and information ready when you apply for Section 8 benefits:
- Date of birth
- Social Security Number (SSN)
- U.S. citizenship or immigration documents
- Proof of income and assets
- Disability status, if you are disabled
You have to have this information for each member of your family that lives with you when you apply for Section 8 benefits. A PHA representative might ask for other documents and information in an interview depending on what you already gave them.
Tips for Applying for Section 8 Housing
When you sign up for Section 8, there are a few things you need to remember. This list can help you fill out your application and apply for benefits:
- Call or visit the PHA to learn about any local rules. Some PHAs will let people move up on the waiting list if the people are about to be kicked out of their homes, are homeless, or something else where they need help very fast.
- Give as much information as you can with your Section 8 application form. If you are missing information or your application isn’t filled out all the way, it can take longer for you to apply for benefits.
- Be ready to attend your eligibility interview when it is scheduled. If you miss the interview, they might deny your application.
- Make sure you are eligible the whole time you are on the waiting list. It can take months or even years to get your housing voucher, so you have to stay eligible the whole time.
- Find out if your PHA ever throws out the waiting list. If it does, you might have to apply again later if you still need help paying for your housing.
How to Apply for Section 8
There are a lot of ways to apply for Section 8 benefits, but your PHA picks which ways you can apply. The rules might be different at different PHAs. A lot of PHAs will let you apply online, and they keep track of applications online, too. But other PHAs only let you apply in person or by mail.
Make sure to follow your PHA’s rules and apply the right way, or your PHA might not take your application. If your forms aren’t right or if you apply while the waiting list is closed, the PHA will probably deny your application.
How to Apply for Section 8 Housing in Person
Some PHAs only let you apply for a housing voucher in person. If you want to apply in person, you have to have the right form. You might be able to find the right form at the PHA office, or on the PHA’s website so you can print it. After you have all your documents and fill out your application, you turn in the documents and application form at the PHA office.
How to Apply for Section 8 Online
You might only be allowed to apply for Section 8 online through your PHA’s online portal. If you can only apply online, you need to make an account on the portal and fill out the online application form.
You might need to upload your supporting documents here, too. After you finish, you can usually come back to the portal to make changes and see your application status.
How to Apply for Section 8 Housing by Mail
Some PHAs will let you turn in your application by mail, especially if you are currently living in another city or state. To apply by mail, you have to ask the PHA for an application, or get one on the website if you can.
After you finish your application, you have to mail the form and supporting documents to the address the PHA tells you. Make sure the envelope has the right address to make sure the PHA gets your application.
What happens after I apply for Section 8?
After your PHA gets your Section 8 application and looks at it, the PHA will send you a notice telling you whether or not you can get benefits. If you are denied because you are not eligible or for another reason, you are allowed to appeal the decision. If you are approved, you will probably get a randomly assigned spot on the waiting list. If the PHA has enough vouchers to give out, or if you get to move ahead on the waiting list, you may get benefits more quickly.
Remember that when you sign up for Section 8, initial approval does not mean you definitely get a housing voucher. You have to keep meeting all the eligibility requirements until you get to the top of the waiting list, and you have to pass an eligibility interview to get your benefits.