Section 8, which is formerly known as the Housing Voucher Program, is one of the federal government’s many subsidy programs that helps qualifying families and residents find and maintain low income housing. Through this program, needy families, seniors and people with disabilities receive a voucher from the government that covers a portion of their rent.
How does Section 8 housing work? In general, housing vouchers are administered by local Public Housing Agencies (PHA) that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In Massachusetts, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Division of Rental Assistance administers HUD housing vouchers. Currently, there are approximately 72,000 Section 8 beneficiaries in the state.
Typically, recipients are responsible for paying 30 to 40 percent of their monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. The voucher takes care of the rest. However, subsidies may differ depending on the household’s income and family size. Read below to learn more about eligibility requirements and how to apply to the Section 8 program.
Discover Massachusetts Section 8 Requirements
In order to receive rental assistance, you must first meet the Section 8 requirements. Because the program is designed to help underprivileged residents afford housing, your family’s annual gross income must not exceed the income limit set by the HUD. Section 8 income limits are broken down into three categories and differ based on the area and household size:
- Low income: 80 percent of the area’s median income level.
- Very low income: 50 percent of the area’s median income level.
- Extremely low income: 30 percent of the area’s median level.
In Massachusetts, 75 percent of all households that are selected to receive housing vouchers must be considered extremely low income. While the program accepts 25 percent of households who are considered very low income, it rarely serves those whose limits go as high as 80 percent of the area’s median income.
This means that a family of four from Worcester, MA whose income falls below $32,650 is more likely to meet Section 8 qualifications than a family of four with an income of $68,000. Sources of income may include salaries, commissions, pensions and alimony.
In addition to income limit requirements, you must be a U.S. citizen or have an eligible immigrant status in order to meet Section 8 eligibility requirements. If your household is made up of a mix of eligible and non-eligible individuals, you may still qualify for rental assistance.
However, the subsidy you receive will based on the number of household members who have eligible citizenship status. Once you are deemed eligible, you will need to find a unit that meets the Section 8 housing requirements.
How to Apply for Section 8 Housing in Massachusetts
There are a few ways of completing a Section 8 application. For instance, enrollment can be done through:
- A regional housing agency.
- A local housing authority (LHA).
In order to be placed on a statewide waiting list, you must apply for Section 8 through one of the nine regional housing agencies. Depending on the agency, there may be several ways to submit a pre-application for rental assistance. For example, you can typically request an application by phone or email. There are also printable hard copies that can be downloaded online through a local agency’s website.
Furthermore, you have the option of being placed on a centralized waiting list with over one hundred participating LHAs. To do so, you may complete a Section 8 housing application online or submit your filled-out form directly to a participating housing authority.
In certain cases, a Section 8 application form can be downloaded online through an LHA’s website or mailed to your address. Once your application has been submitted, you will be considered by all participating housing authorities in the state.
Keep in mind that you will need to provide a great deal of personal information about you and your household members when applying. Having identification and employment documents, such as tax returns, can help speed up the process.
Understanding Section 8 Waiting Lists in Massachusetts
Before you can receive a housing voucher, you will likely be placed on a Section 8 waiting list. This is due to the high demand for affordable housing in Massachusetts and the limited available resources. To secure a spot on a waiting list, you can apply through a regional housing agency or through an LHA, as previously mentioned.
Despite the fact that regional housing authorities keep their Section 8 waiting list open indefinitely, certain LHAs close their lists when the number of households on the list is too high.
Because housing authorities rank applicants differently, you may notice that your ranking is different with each housing authority. As an example, certain housing authorities sort their lists by date and time of application, while others use a random lottery system for fairness.
Furthermore, priority is typically given to families who are homeless, living in substandard housing or paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent.
To check your Section 8 waiting list status, contact the local housing authority or regional housing agency where you filed your application. If you are on the centralized waiting list, you can confirm that you are actively waiting on the list by going online or submitting a request for status form to your local housing authority.
Learn About Massachusetts Section 8 Housing Lists
A Section 8 housing list in Massachusetts contains options that are available through the Housing Choice Voucher Program. This includes qualifying single-family houses, townhomes and apartments. Those who are selected to receive vouchers are generally given a list of options to choose from. However, recipients are usually given the freedom to choose where they would like to live, as long as:
- The housing unit meets an acceptable level of health and safety according to the housing quality standards.
- The landlord accepts Section 8 housing.
When searching for low income apartments for rent, voucher recipients are advised to pick a dwelling unit size based on the size and composition of their families. Additionally, the regional housing agency or LHA determines the payment standard based on moderately-priced units in the local housing market.
A family can select a unit that has rent below or above the payment standard. However, in these cases, they will be responsible for paying not only 30 percent of their monthly adjusted gross income, but the additional amount after the housing voucher has been put into effect.