Housing Choice Vouchers (Form of Section 8)
The Housing Choice Voucher program (a form of Section 8) is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments.
Who is Eligible
Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the public housing agency (PHA) based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, a PHA must provide 75% of its vouchers to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30% of the area median income. Median income levels are published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and vary by location. The PHA serving your community can provide the income limits and family sizes for your area.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides "tenant-based" rental assistance, so a tenant can move from one unit of at least minimum housing quality to another. It also allows individuals to apply their monthly voucher towards the purchase of a home. The maximum allowed voucher is $2,200/month.
Section 8 also authorizes a variety of "project-based" rental-assistance programs, under which the owner reserves some or all of the units in a building for low-income tenants in return for a federal government guarantee to make up the difference between the tenant's contribution and the rent in the owner's contract with the government. A tenant who leaves a subsidized project will lose access to the project-based subsidy.
To Apply For
The Housing Choice Voucher program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. A very low-income family selected by the PHA to participate is encouraged to consider several housing choices to secure the best housing for the family. A housing voucher holder is advised of the unit size for which it is eligible based on family size and composition.
The housing unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before the PHA can approve the unit. When the voucher holder finds a unit that s/he wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the PHA must inspect the dwelling and determine that the rent requested is reasonable.
The PHA determines a payment standard that is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market and that is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. However, the payment standard does not limit nor affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay. A family who receives a housing voucher can select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. The housing voucher family must pay 30% of their monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities, and if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard, the family is required to pay the additional amount. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40% of their adjusted monthly income for rent.