There are a lot of people out there that find it difficult to manage costs like rent. It is an even bigger issue that American families go through than most individuals think. For instance, a typical apartment costs $1,659 a month. This is a lot of money for low-income Americans. If a person earns $13 per hour and works 40 hours per week, then they will only be earning $2,080 per month before taxes come out.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a definition of affordable housing. Their definition states that a family should not pay more than 30% of their gross income per month on housing. From our example above, if a family earns only $2,080 per month in gross income, then their housing costs should be $624 or less to be affordable. The amount they would use on housing would be lower than an average apartment that costs $1,659 per month! It is important for you to know what support options are available to you. One specific option includes the Housing Choice Voucher Program, or Section 8 program.
What You Should Know About Section 8 Assistance
This program can be called either the Housing Choice Voucher Program or Section 8, but it is still the same support option. Section 8 is a federal program that is available from the HUD that’s been assisting eligible low-income families since 1974! Despite it being a federal assistance program that the HUD funds, local public housing agencies (PHAs) are in charge of administering the program.
The way that this assistance option can help people who need it is through housing choice vouchers. Recipients can move into a home that allows these vouchers as a form of payment. Once the household moves in, the local PHA will make payments to the landlord on behalf of the recipients. The housing voucher will cover a part of the rent. Any existing difference is the responsibility of the recipients. It is important to remember that not every property can actually be an option. The properties need to accept these vouchers as a form of payment and they need to pass housing quality standards (HQS). These HQS include 13 requirements that properties must meet!
Can Section 8 Actually Improve People’s Housing Situation?
Yes, it can! There is research that verifies just how efficient this program is in decreasing homelessness and assisting recipients with other struggles. When families overspend on housing with more than 30% of their monthly gross income, they can become cost-burdened. When families are cost-burdened, they can find it more difficult to manage other necessary costs. This could include food, medical care, clothes, transportation, and so on.
Through the assistance of housing vouchers, recipients will typically not spend more than 30% of their income, but the unit that a family chooses must not have a rent price that is more than 40% of the family’s adjusted monthly income. This is if the unit is over the payment standard by law.
Who Qualifies to Receive Section 8?
It is important to remember that the specific eligibility criteria will depend on the area you live in. There are four main factors that local PHAs will take into consideration when defining eligibility. These four factors include:
- Income Level
- Citizenship Status
- Family Status
- Eviction History
For applicants to receive assistance and be eligible for the program, they should meet all of the above eligibility requirements. There might be exceptions to some of the requirements, but again, it will depend on the area. If the program accepts a person’s application, then usually they will be waitlisted. This is because there are a lot of people who apply and are eligible, but the program does not have enough financial support to help everyone at the same time.
Section 8 was created to assist the people who need the most housing help. This is why income level has an important role in eligibility. Only low-income applicants can be eligible for assistance. Typically, applicants should not earn more than 50% of the area’s median income (AMI). If you want more information on the specific restrictions for your area, then you should reach out to your local PHA. Some types of income sources that you should present in your application include:
- Social Security payments
- Overtime earnings
- Employment earnings
- Insurance payments
- Military pay
- Bonuses and/or tips
- Child support
- Death benefits
- Disability income
- Unemployment payments
The specific documents that you will need to present as income proof depend on your local PHA. Other than highlighting low-income applicants, there will be special importance on recipients that earn less than 30% of the local AMI. According to the law, a minimum of 75% of recipients of the Section 8 program should fall within that income limit. While the specific differences will vary based on the local PHA, some examples of special focus would include these types of families:
- Families that pay more than 50% of their income toward rent
- Homeless households
- Families that have been involuntarily displaced
- Households that stay in living conditions that are unfit for humans
Unfortunately, not everyone can be eligible for this program, even if they have low-income levels. Section 8 is a federal assistance program, which means only people with qualifying citizenship status can be eligible. That is why during the application process for Section 8, applicants will be required to provide their signature on a certification form. This also includes the applicant’s household members! The certification form will declare the citizenship status of the applicant and the members of the household. Your local PHA might need for you to present more documents such as:
- Resident alien cards
- Social Security cards
- Passports from the U.S.
- Registration cards
Fortunately, even if every member of the family does not have eligible citizenship status, that does not mean the entire family cannot gain from the program. Actually, the amount of relief will only be calculated based on the qualifying members.
A family or household needs to meet certain criteria to apply for the program. While the HUD provides a standard definition of a family, local PHAs have the authority to establish their own definition. To better understand your local PHA’s definition, you should get in touch with them directly. The following criteria are general requirements that households should meet:
- Your family has kids.
- There is at least one person over 62 years old.
- Your household does not have children.
- There is at least one household member with a disability
- Your household was displaced involuntarily for qualifying reasons.
It is important to remember that families are not required to meet all of these requirements. These are some general outlines of what to expect. In the case that any changes take place to your family size, you should report those changes as soon as possible to your local PHA.
Finally, one of the requirements that affect your Section 8 eligibility is your eviction history. Your eviction history is important because it allows the PHA to understand whether you are a good renter or not. This is why families will typically need to have a good history to qualify. For instance, applicants might be automatically ineligible if they have a record of eviction from a property for drug-related or criminal activity.
The Final Verdict
If you need affordable housing, you should definitely consider Section 8. Section 8 is a program that offers eligible recipients housing choice vouchers that they can use on renting a place that is within their budget. Typically, recipients should not spend more than 30% of their gross income when they receive their housing vouchers. Not every property will allow vouchers as a form of payment. Even if they accept them as a form of payment, only properties that can meet the requirements that the local PHA sets can be eligible. Typically, there are four main requirements that applicants need to meet which are:
- Income Level
- Citizenship Status
- Family Status
- Eviction History
If you want to gain from the Section 8 program, then you should contact your local PHA. They will be able to give you a lot of information and even help with the application process!