Understanding the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Your Complete Guide To The Housing Choice Voucher Program

(DailyDig.com) – Very low income families and individuals who are elderly or disabled can obtain a number of different types of federal assistance, including housing assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The program is commonly referred to as Section 8.

What Is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government’s major housing assistance program. The program, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides individual and family participants with the opportunity to find rental housing in the area that meets their needs and HUD standards. The government then provides a subsidy to assist the participant in affording rent.

Funds are dispersed to Section 8 participants through local Public Housing Agencies, and eligibility is based on total gross annual income and family size.  PHAs are required by HUD to ensure that at least 75 percent of its participants are at 30 percent or less of the area median income. The program is limited to U.S. citizens, and non-citizens with permanent immigration status. Temporary and unauthorized immigrants are not generally eligible.

How It Works

These are the steps involved in obtaining Section 8 benefits:

Application Process

Participants apply for the program through their local Public Housing Agency (PHA), and HUD provides a search tool for locating a PHA. Often, the number of participants seeking public housing exceeds the resources that the PHA has available for the region. It is not unusual for individuals to be placed on a wait list. The application is considered on a needs-basis, with waitlist priority given first to those who are homeless or living in substandard housing; then to those paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent; and next, to those who are being involuntarily displaced.

Finding Housing

Once an individual or family participant is selected to receive Section 8 assistance, they are encouraged to consider several housing choices in order to find the best housing for their needs. The PHA will calculate the amount of rental assistance available, generally ensuring that the remaining rent will be no more than 30 percent of the participant’s income.

Qualified housing choices include single family dwellings, apartments, duplexes, or trailer homes, and qualified units do not have to be located in government housing projects. In some circumstances, the assistance can be used to help a family purchase a modest home.

In order for the participant to rent the home through the program, the property’s landlord must agree to provide the housing for Section 8 participants. The dwelling must meet the program’s quality standards. The PHA must approve the housing unit selected by the participant. Once the participant enters into a lease with the tenant, they will be required to pay the security deposit on their own, as well as deposits and monthly payments for utility services. The tenant will be required to adhere to all lease terms.

How the Subsidy is Paid

The PHA will enter into a housing assistance payment contract with the landlord that runs for the same duration of the tenant’s lease. Monthly subsidy payments will be paid to the landlord, with the tenant being responsible for paying any amount over the subsidy.

How Eligibility Is Determined

During the application process, the participant will be required to provide information on family composition, citizenship status, household income, and assets. They will compare this information to the median income for family size, in addition to determining the priority of the application, based on the participant’s current housing situation, whether the situation is currently stable (they’re not being involuntarily displaced), and how much of their income is being spent on housing. For additional information on the eligibility requirements or the application process, contact the local PHA.

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