State residents who struggle to make their rental payments may benefit from enrolling in the Section 8 program in Pennsylvania. This housing choice voucher program enables families and individuals to afford low income housing by receiving vouchers that cover a portion of their monthly rent, ensuring that they do not end up homeless.
In general, beneficiaries enrolled in Section 8 only have to pay between 30 and 40 percent of their monthly income on rent. The remaining portion of rent that is not covered by their income is paid for by their local Public Housing Agency (PHA). Overall, PHAs receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The HUD issues funding for a certain number of Section 8 vouchers to each PHA in the state. As such, this program ensures that low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities are not priced out of the private rental marketplace.
Consequently, Section 8 ensures that families do not have to live in projects in order to afford rent. It is important to note that the application methods, eligibility requirements and priorities for the program may vary by PHA. To learn more about low income HUD housing, read the sections below.
Discover Pennsylvania Section 8 Requirements
Each local PHA may have slightly different Section 8 requirements to qualify applicants. However, in general, the program is designed for low-income families, the elderly and individuals with disabilities.
On the other hand, the Section 8 income requirements vary depending on where you live. This is because federal law stipulates that recipients should generally earn no more than 50 percent of the median income for a local area. As a result, areas with higher salaries and higher costs of living will have higher income limits than places with lower salaries and costs of living.
For example, the maximum annual household income for a three-person family in Chester County is $37,450. In Clinton County, the maximum income for the same three-person family would be $27,450. Therefore, a family may qualify for HUD housing in one county but not in another.
In any case, meeting the Section 8 qualifications also depend on an applicant’s ability to pass a background check. For instance, residents may not meet the program’s criteria if they owe money to a PHA, have been evicted from the program in the past, or have a violent or drug-related conviction on their record. Furthermore, applicants who are listed as sexual predators may not be eligible.
How to Apply for Section 8 Housing in Pennsylvania
You can submit a Section 8 application online, by mail or in person, depending on the application guidelines established by your local PHA. Certain PHAs have an online portal that allows you to complete an application, upload documents, make changes (as needed) and check on your status. However, many PHAs require you to submit a paper application by mail or schedule an appointment with the local office to apply in person. In a few cases, you may be required to begin the application process with a phone call.
Keep in mind that you are not necessarily always able to apply for Section 8. Because demand for vouchers typically exceeds the available supply, many PHAs limit the time period that they will accept applications. If your PHA is currently not accepting new applicants, you must carefully watch its official portal for updates regarding the waitlist and the enrollment period.
Understanding Section 8 Waiting Lists in Pennsylvania
You will not immediately receive a voucher after submitting a successful Section 8 application in Pennsylvania. Instead, you are placed on a Section 8 waiting list.
After being placed on a waitlist, you must wait for a voucher to become available. While PHAs generally go through their waiting lists on a first-come, first-served basis, they may prioritize certain applicants over others. For instance, residents who are homeless or veterans may receive priority over applicants who currently have a home to reside in. As such, your Section 8 waiting list status depends on your particular circumstances.
While you are on the Section 8 waiting list, it is important to keep your information up to date. If you move, you must update your address on your application. Additionally, you must inform your PHA if your household makeup or income changes.
All these changes can affect your eligibility for Section 8. Moreover, failing to update your address when you move can result in being purged from the waiting list. Many PHAs will send you notices by mail on an annual basis, which serve to determine whether you are still interested in the program. If you fail to respond, you will likely be removed from the waitlist.
Learn About Pennsylvania Section 8 Housing Lists
Once you receive your Section 8 voucher, you can begin your search for housing. According to the terms of the housing choice voucher program, you are responsible for finding a home on the private market with a rent that is in line with average market prices.
When you find a suitable unit, you must ask the landlord whether he or she accepts your Section 8 voucher. Overall, Pennsylvania has laws prohibiting landlords from discriminating against applicants based on their source of income. However, it can still be a challenge to find a landlord who will accept your voucher.
One easy way to find housing is by browsing through Section 8 housing lists. These lists gather available units owned by landlords that are already willing to accept these vouchers. Thus, Section 8 beneficiaries can explore these available units in an area and see what they can expect to pay.
In addition to online listings, you can contact your PHA directly for an approved Section 8 housing list. Many PHAs maintain an active directory of landlords who have rented to voucher holders in the past. On the other hand, not all PHAs have this list, so it is important to determine if this is an option as soon as you receive your voucher.
With most PHAs, you have a limited period of time to find a property. If you do not find a property within that time frame, you may lose the voucher.