The Section 8 program is a federally funded program that helps low-income tenants afford safe and sanitary places to live. It is run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but funds are distributed by local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) in each state. In California, more than 1 million estimated residents receive this type of federal rental assistance.
Families and individuals who reside in low income housing and qualify for this type of assistance receive housing choice vouchers that are issued by the Section 8 program. These vouchers cover a certain portion of the rent for a family’s new home, and will be distributed from the PHA directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenants.
If you are wondering whether or not you qualify for Section 8 housing in California, it is important to read through the eligibility requirements for HUD housing, as well as understand the application process and other program information.
On the other hand, keep in mind that the CA housing choice voucher program in your area may only take a certain number of applicants per month. In fact, many local PHAs stop accepting new applications as reach their limit on voucher allotments. Read below to learn key insights about California PHAs and the Section 8 program in the state.
Discover California Section 8 Requirements
There are many Section 8 requirements for eligibility in California. Generally, you may qualify based on three main factors:
- The annual gross income of your immediate family
- The number of individuals in your household, and whether any family members are dependents, seniors or have a disability
- The citizenship status of each family member
Annual gross income refers to the amount of money you earn in a year before tax deductions. The income of every family member who holds a job will be counted.
It is important to note that the rules for Section 8 qualifications allow for certain exceptions. For instance, if you have a child who is 17 years of age or younger and holds a job, his or her income will not be factored in. Alternatively, if you have a child who is 18 years of age or older, holds a job and is enrolled in school, only a portion of his or her income will be factored in. Other forms of income that may not be counted include adoption assistance and foster care payments.
In addition, your Section 8 eligibility in California will depend on the median income established in your area. If your family’s income falls below 50 percent of the median income in your town or county, you may qualify for housing vouchers. You may even be considered to be high priority if your income falls below 30 percent of the median income. In this case, your local PHA may want to help as quickly as possible.
These Section 8 income limits are designed to help the PHAs prioritize the families that need the most assistance in a given area. Thus, your income may be low enough to qualify in one county, but not low enough to qualify in another.
It is also important to remember that Section 8 housing eligibility is never guaranteed. Applicants can lose eligibility if they begin earning more money, are convicted of a crime or they are a non-citizen and lose their status as a legal resident.
How to Apply for Section 8 Housing in California
In order to submit a Section 8 application in California, you must first determine whether your local PHA is accepting new applicants. Unfortunately, many PHAs in the state have closed enrollment so that they can focus on their current beneficiaries.
Depending on the time of year, certain PHAs may open their waitlists periodically, giving new applicants a chance at receiving assistance. If a waiting list in your area is open, contact your PHA for instructions on how to apply. While certain agencies may require you to submit a hard copy of the application, others will allow you to apply online.
If you decide to apply for Section 8, make sure that you complete every section of the application form to the best of your ability. This means that you must gather important documents about you and your family in advance, so that the information is readily available as you fill out the form.
In general, you will be asked to provide the following information during your Section 8 housing application:
- General information about your family, such as the name, age and Social Security Number (SSN) of each family member who will live with you in subsidized housing
- Your current address and phone number
- Veteran status of any family members, and whether any of them has a disability or severe illness
- The names, phone numbers and email addresses of your current and previous landlords
- Employer information about every working family member
Regardless of whether you complete a Section 8 application online, in person or by mail, you will typically be required to take part in an interview as well. This interview may be conducted in your home or at a local agency, depending on the PHA’s policy. During this process, an agent may ask you questions about your application in order to evaluate your eligibility, and you may ask any questions you have about Section 8.
Understanding Section 8 Waiting Lists in California
If your local Section 8 waiting list in CA is open and you qualify for the program, you are not necessarily guaranteed a spot on it. That is because your PHA may establish a waiting list lottery and/or determine a certain date limit for new applicants. In the lottery system, applicants will be randomly chosen, placed on the waitlist and given a number.
You may not check your Section 8 waiting list status until the application period closes and your PHA performs the random lottery. Once the results are in, you will receive a notification about your application status.
You may still receive priority during this lottery process if you have a disability, are 62 years of age or older, or fit both categories. If you receive a spot on the waitlist, you may begin receiving vouchers within approximately two years.
Learn About California Section 8 Housing Lists
You may begin searching for homes on a Section 8 housing list if you receive a notice from your PHA that you have reached the top of the waitlist. In general, a housing list is simply a network of homes in your area that are available for rent through the housing choice voucher program. These homes have already been screened in the past for safety and sanitary conditions.