The Section 8 program is the biggest housing assistance program in the United States. If a person qualifies for the Section 8 program, they may get help to pay for their housing. This help is called a “housing voucher.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is in charge of the program, but local public housing agencies (PHAs) run the program. Not everyone can get a housing voucher. You can only get a housing voucher if you meet your PHA’s Section 8 requirements. Some of the requirements look at your income, because you have to make less than a set amount of money per year. That is called an income limit. Other requirements look at how many people in your family live with you and whether you and your family are United States citizens.
The rules for Section 8 are not the same everywhere. The place you want to live may have special rules for Section 8. For example, the income limit depends on what the middle range of household income is where you want to live. So when one place has a higher middle range or “median” household income, the Section 8 income limit might be higher. A lot of the housing vouchers are saved for people with the lowest income. If you want to use a housing voucher, you can only use it on a home that follows the Section 8 rules. It is important for you to learn everything you can about the rules so you can make sure you follow them.
What are the main requirements for Section 8?
As the biggest housing assistance program in the country, Section 8 helps thousands of low-income families each year who can’t afford homes. People who meet Section 8’s requirements can get housing vouchers, which help pay for their home rental costs.
If you want to receive Section 8 benefits, you must meet all the requirements. Different PHAs may have different rules, but some rules are standard no matter where you apply:
- Citizenship and legal status. You can only apply if you are a U.S. citizen or a qualified non-citizen.
- Rental history. Some PHAs may look into your rental history to see if you’ve ever been evicted or if you’ve gotten housing assistance before.
- Income and assets. Section 8 income limits are one of the most important requirements. You can only apply for Section 8 if you make less than the income limit. If your yearly gross household income (before taxes) is more than the limit, you cannot receive Section 8 benefits.
- Family members. When you apply, you have to give information about all of your family members that live with you in your home. You have to give their names, ages and disability statuses. The number of people who live with you can change your income limit.
Note: Some PHAs have rules that move some applications to the front of the line. If someone is homeless or about to be homeless, the rules might let them move to the front of the line for a housing voucher. Also, if someone is about to be forced out of their home, they might move to the front of the line.
Find Out About Documents for Section 8
When you are ready to apply for the Section 8 program, you have to fill out the application and give all of the documents that the application asks for. Your documents will tell the PHA whether you can get Section 8 benefits. You will need all of these documents:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or qualified immigration status
- Proof of income
- Proof of financial assets
- Social Security Numbers (SSNs)
You need all of those documents for every person who lives with you, too. After you give the PHA your documents, the PHA might want to talk to you. If the PHA wants to talk to you, they might ask you for more documents.
Some other things the PHA might ask you for are medical documents that show you have a disability. The PHA might ask you for the name and phone number of your landlords. The PHA might ask you for proof of how much you spend on things like childcare costs, too. The PHA will also run a criminal background check to see if you can get Section 8 benefits.
Section 8 Income Limits
Different PHAs have different income limits. Your income limit is one thing that decides whether you can get Section 8 benefits. You need to know what your PHA says your income limit is. If you make more than your PHA’s income limit, you won’t qualify for Section 8 benefits.
Usually, you can find out what the income limit is if you know your area’s median income. You can find out what your area’s median income is by asking your PHA. If you want to qualify for Section 8 benefits, your income has to be less than half of your area’s median income. So, you take your area’s median income and divide it by 2.
But PHAs have to make sure that they give at least 75% of their Section 8 money to people with even lower incomes. People who make less than 30% of the median income are first in line for Section 8 benefits. To find out if you make less than 30% of the median income, you take your area’s median income and divide it by about 3. If you make less than that, you make less than 30% of the median income.
For every person that lives with you who is an adult, the PHA needs to look at how much money they make. To find out how much money a person makes, you have to add tips, child support, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You have to look at things you own, too. This means that you have to add the money you have in your bank accounts to find out how much you make.
What are the housing requirements for Section 8?
After you see if you can get Section 8 benefits, you have to find a place to live. You can pick a home that is best for your family. You can pick an apartment or a house.
But your home has to have 3 things. All 3 things are important. If your home doesn’t have all 3 things, your Section 8 benefits won’t pay for it. These are the requirements your home has to meet:
- Safe and Clean. Someone from the PHA has to look at the home before you move in. They look to see if the home has anything dangerous, like electrical problems. They also look to make sure that things like the air and the bathrooms are clean and safe for you to use.
- Low Cost. Your PHA will say how much it will pay you for your rent every month. The PHA looks at how much other people pay for rent where you live and that helps decide what the cost should be. If you pick a home that costs more than what the PHA will pay, that is okay. But, if your monthly rent costs more than what the PHA will pay, you have to pay for the extra amount.
- You Can Pay With Housing Vouchers. If you pick a home that doesn’t already let you pay your rent with a housing voucher, you can only use your housing voucher to pay rent if your landlord agrees to the Section 8 requirements and lets you pay your rent with your housing voucher.
What happens if I don’t meet the Section 8 requirements?
If you don’t meet the Section 8 requirements, your PHA will deny your application and will not give you Section 8 benefits. There are a lot of reasons your PHA might deny your application. Some of these reasons are:
- You or a family member cannot show citizenship or immigration documents.
- Your family makes more than the Section 8 income limits.
- You or a family member have a drug-related conviction while you had housing benefits.
- You committed fraud on your Section 8 application.
After you get Section 8 benefits, you always have to meet all the requirements. So, if you make more money or less money, you have to tell your PHA. If one of your family members stops living with you, or if another family member comes to live with you, you have to tell your PHA. The PHA can stop giving you Section 8 benefits if:
- You (or your family that lives with you) make more money than the income limit.
- You or a family member are evicted from your home.
- You break the rules of the Section 8 program.
If the PHA does not give you Section 8 benefits or stops giving you Section 8 benefits, you are allowed to ask them about it. If the PHA denies your application for Section 8 benefits, it will give you a notice. The notice will tell you how to ask the PHA to look again, to see if they will give you Section 8 benefits.