California Section 8 listings can help you find rental units that accept housing choice vouchers. Once a public housing agency (PHA) approves you for a voucher, it is your responsibility to find an apartment, townhome or other rental property where you can use the voucher.
In some cases, you can use your rental assistance payment where you currently live, provided that your landlord is willing to participate in the program. In case of doubt, a Section 8 housing list is a useful tool for finding a new place to rent using these vouchers.
Finding low income apartments for rent in CA can be a challenge. However, PHAs and other organizations provide a variety of resources that can help make it easier. Read below to find more information on homes for rent that accept Section 8 and discover what you need to know when you start looking for housing.
What is an approved Section 8 housing list in California?
Under the Section 8 program, you are free to choose any rental unit on the open market, provided that it is in safe and decent condition and that meets any other requirements set by your PHA. Once you are approved for a voucher, the housing authority may or may not provide you with official Section 8 rental listings that it approves.
If you receive a list of low income apartments for rent, these units may already be pre-screened by the PHA and guaranteed to meet the program requirements. However, in many cases, you are responsible for finding an acceptable unit on your own.
It is important to keep in mind that each PHA is independently run. Consequently, there is no official Section 8 housing list used by all PHAs in California.
Some PHAs will curate their own list, while others may endorse apartment search engines that provide listings. As an example, a PHA may encourage participants to use free online tools to find a new apartment to rent.
Official Section 8 listings may come in a variety of formats. If your PHA has a website, it may list approved rental units a page for tenants, or it may link to a third-party search engine that it endorses. PHAs without websites may provide paper listings instead.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also provides an official tool that you can use to look for rentals. HUD homes for rent listings can be searched by entering an address or zip code. Search results may include:
- Multi-family units
- Single-family homes
- Housing projects
- The location of PHAs in the area
Overall, the Section 8 program issues tenant-based vouchers, which means that the tenant is free to choose a unit on the open market and is not limited to public housing projects. Certain PHAs also issue project-based vouchers, which do limit a participant to rent a unit in a housing project. In such cases, voucher-holders may be required to rent a unit from an approved list provided by the PHA.
Other Ways to Find Section 8 Listings in California
Following the HUD application procedure, your local PHA should tell you whether or not it provides an official Section 8 housing list once you are approved for a voucher. If you do not receive a list of pre-approved apartments, you may wish to ask the housing authority for help finding a place to rent. Not all PHAs will have the resources to provide this type of assistance.
You can also find apartments for rent that accept Section 8 using a variety of websites and apps. Even if your PHA does not endorse a specific website for finding apartments, you can use different search engines during this process.
Keep in mind that some Section 8 listings in CA can be found on websites dedicated entirely to low-income housing. Other websites will include Section 8 approved housing for rent along with other types of rentals.
In such cases, it is important to narrow your search to low-income apartments. Learn more about using apartment search lists by reading our guide here.
Quality Standards for Section 8 Approved Housing in California
If you are using an official Section 8 housing list in California, chances are the units are pre-screened and already meet PHA requirements. However, it is ultimately your responsibility to find a unit that meets certain standards. The apartment or home you rent must:
- Have enough bedrooms or space for your family.
- Be rented by a landlord who will take Section 8 vouchers.
- Meet basic health and safety requirements.
Your unit must meet these standards before you can rent it, but it also needs to remain in a safe and sanitary condition for as long as you receive assistance. To ensure that your rental still meets the requirements, the PHA will usually inspect the unit each year.
Tips to Help You Find Low Income Apartments for Rent in California
Whether you are using official Section 8 listings or not, there are a variety of ways to make your search go more smoothly. Most apartment for rent apps work in the same way regardless of whether they are made for Section 8 participants or not. You can narrow your search by entering criteria such as:
- Your preferred location or neighborhood.
- The number of bedrooms you need.
- Apartment amenities you want.
- Preferred property types, such as apartments or single-family homes.
Most participants end up looking for Section 8 rental listings in the community where they already live. However, vouchers do not always have to be used locally. If you currently live in the service area of the PHA that issued your voucher, you can use your rental assistance anywhere in the United States.
On the other hand, if you do not currently live in the area covered by the PHA that issued your voucher, you must rent a unit within that PHA’s service area for at least 12 months. After this period is up, you are free to use Section 8 listings to find a unit anywhere in the U.S.
For example, if the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles issued your voucher but you do not already live in LA, you must use your assistance to rent a place within the city for the first year. In some cases, a voucher can also be used to purchase a modest home instead of being used to help pay rent.