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Learn About Section 8 Housing in Washington DC

Section 8 in Washington DC is a program that helps low-income families find safe, sanitary and decent housing while also receiving assistance paying rent. This program is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but is administered at the local level by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). Most states are large enough that they are covered by multiple PHAs, but Washington DC is primarily served by the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA). Despite the fact that HUD housing is federally funded, you must apply through PHA in order to receive rental assistance. Once you are approved, you will receive a voucher that allows you to rent any acceptable house or apartment that meets the DCHA’s requirements. This voucher covers part of your rent, which reduces the amount you owe each month. Below, learn more about applying for low income housing in DC and find out how to qualify for a voucher.

Discover Washington DC Section 8 Requirements

There is a variety of Section 8 requirements in Washington DC that you must meet before you can receive assistance. The most important qualifications to be aware of relate to your income, family composition and legal presence in the U.S. First, to meet the Section 8 qualifications, your household must meet HUD’s definition of family. For this program, you are considered a family if you:
  • Are a single person who is elderly, disabled or displaced from home due to a natural disaster or government action.
  • Live in a household with at least two members, with or without children.
In most cases, you will not have Section 8 eligibility if you are a single adult who is not disabled, displaced or elderly. However, the exact qualifications may vary based on your situation. Next, you must meet the Section 8 income limits in Washington DC in order to qualify. Generally speaking, your income must be no greater than 50 percent of the median family income in Washington DC. However, you may qualify for a voucher more quickly if your income does not exceed 30 percent of the median. This is because most PHAs give priority to families with the greatest need. Your Section 8 housing eligibility is also based on whether you are in the U.S. legally. This program is limited to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents and others who are legally-present. Your household may still meet Section 8 housing requirements if some members of your family are not in the U.S. legally. However, the amount of assistance you receive will be based on the number of family members who are present in the household.

How to Apply for Section 8 Housing in Washington DC

Before you can apply for Section 8 in DC, you will need to check whether the DCHA is currently accepting applications. Unfortunately, you cannot submit a Section 8 application whenever you choose. The DCHA periodically stops taking applications if the waiting list for housing gets too long. Therefore, you must wait to fill out a Section 8 housing application when the DCHA announces that its waiting list is open. When the DCHA starts accepting new applicants, you may apply for Section 8 housing directly through the housing authority rather than HUD. Because the demand for housing is so high, your initial application will only get you placed onto a waiting list until the DCHA is able to assist you. Your initial Section 8 application form will include basic information that the housing authority needs to determine whether you are eligible, such as:
  • An estimate of your family’s anticipated income for the next year.
  • The name and date of birth of each family member who will live in the household.
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN).
  • The contact information of any previous landlords.
In most cases, you will need to have documentation that verifies the information on your application. For example, you may need to show paperwork such as birth certificates, employment records, bank statements, tax returns or benefit award letters to demonstrate your income and basic eligibility

Understanding Section 8 Waiting Lists in Washington DC

As mentioned above, the DCHA will use a Section 8 waiting list when it is not possible to assist every family that applies. Because the waiting list is often closed, you may need to wait for a long period of time to even apply for a spot on the list. You can generally apply for assistance from any PHA if you are unable to get your name on a local waiting list. Keep in mind that you initially must use your voucher to rent a unit that is located within the PHA’s service area. However, you do have the option of moving once you have lived in the area for a set amount of time. If you plan on applying for assistance with a different PHA in the area, it is important to be aware that your placement on the waiting list may be affected if you do not live or work in that PHA’s service area. Many PHAs will give Section 8 preference to local applicants and petitioners who meet other criteria. Once you are placed on the DCHA Section 8 waiting list or any other PHA’s list, it is important to keep your information up-to-date. This is because changes to any information on your application could affect your eligibility for a voucher. It is especially important to keep your address current, as the DCHA will typically notify you of your Section 8 waiting list status through the mail. Unfortunately, you may forfeit your spot on the waiting list if the housing authority is unable to contact you through the mail.

Learn About Washington DC Section 8 Housing Lists

You may start looking at Section 8 listings in Washington DC once you are approved for a voucher. Keep in mind that you do not necessarily need to stick to a Section 8 housing list due to the fact that you are able to rent any eligible unit on the open market. Many low income apartments for rent will meet the DCHA’s housing standards. However, if you receive certain types of assistance from the DCHA, such as a project-based voucher, you may need to rent a specific type of unit. In such cases, it will be necessary to look at an approved Section 8 housing list when finding a place to live.