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Understanding Section 8 Housing

How to Find Affordable Housing with Section 8

Housing costs have skyrocketed, and you may find yourself struggling to pay rent or find affordable housing. Don’t worry; the government has a program that may be able to help you, called Section 8 housing.

The official name is the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, but it is more commonly known as Section 8. This program helps families by giving them money toward their rent payments each month. 

The agency that administers the Housing Choice Voucher Program, HUD, pays a portion of the rent directly to the landlord and you would be responsible for paying the rest.

The first step is to submit a Section 8 housing application and get approved for the program. If your Section 8 application is approved, you may be able to get rental assistance right away. Sometimes, however, you will be placed on a Section 8 waiting list and will get HUD housing assistance once funds become available. 

How to Apply for Section 8

Section 8 rentals are limited to those who qualify. In order to qualify, you must prove that you meet the following criteria: 

  • You have low or very low income. This means that your household income is equal to or less than half of the average income for your county or city.
  • Your family has at least one dependent child, senior or disabled individual living in the home.
  • You are a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.
  • You have a good history of paying your rent on time.

If you apply and are placed on the Section 8 waiting list, you should be aware that the agency will double check that you are still eligible before you can start to receive benefits.

You can submit your Section 8 housing application through your local public housing agency. Some PHAs have long waiting lists, so it may benefit you to apply through several PHAs in your area.

If you qualify, the public housing agency will also let you know about any other government assistance programs or community sources that can help you with other expenses.

Once you are approved, you will receive a Section 8 voucher that you can use for any Section 8 homes for rent. You will be expected to pay 30% of your monthly adjusted gross income in rent, and typically, the Section 8 subsidy will pay the rest of the rent. Since the Section 8 voucher will only pay a portion of your total rent, you will need to look for a house or apartment that accepts Section 8 and that you can afford after the Section 8 benefits are applied.

What Are Section 8 Homes for Rent?

Section 8 homes for rent include apartments, townhomes and single family homes that are available for rental and have been approved by the public housing agency. To qualify for Section 8, the home and surrounding property must meet or exceed minimum standards for health and safety. Some Section 8 homes for rent are owned by a company (including most Section 8 apartments), while others are houses for rent by owner accepting section 8.

Initially, the local Public Housing Agency (PHA) inspects the home to make sure it is in good condition and then periodically will reinspect it to make sure it still meets Section 8 standards. There will typically be another inspection before a qualifying family moves into the Section 8 apartment or house.

How Do I Find Section 8 Apartments Near Me?

Once you have been approved to live in Section 8 apartments, you will have 90 days to find Section 8 housing. Contact your local public housing agency to get a complete list of Section 8 apartments and Section 8 houses for rent in your area.

In addition to the Section 8 housing list you get from the PHA, you can find Section 8 homes for rent in the following places: 

  • HUD Resource Locator
  • Social Serve
  • Affordable Housing Online
  • USDA Rural Housing

Once you have a complete list of Section 8 apartments and homes available for rent in your area, narrow down your search by cost, location, size and your preferred aspects of the home.

How to Choose Section 8 Housing 

When going through your Section 8 housing list, it is important to consider what kind of home will be best for you and your family.

First and foremost, review your budget so you know that you can afford to pay your portion of the rent each month. Then, think about where you would like to live. Do you want a house or would an apartment be a better choice? How many bedrooms do you need?

Lastly, consider what kind of amenities you would prefer. For example, amenities could include:

  • Reserved covered or uncovered parking spaces.
  • Included utilities, such as cable, electricity, gas or internet.
  • Window or central air conditioning.
  • A yard or pool.
  • Pet friendly community.
  • Laundry in the unit or on-site.

Some Section 8 apartments might require you to pay a deposit. If one home on your short list requires a deposit, you will need to decide if this extra money is in your budget when comparing this home to the other available Section 8 homes in your area.

Can You Move Between Section 8 Apartments?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program knows that your housing needs may change as time goes by. So it does allow families to move from between Section 8 apartments or homes without the loss of benefits. 

If you want to do so, you need to let your PHA know ahead of time and get the move authorized by them, terminate your existing lease within the lease provisions and find another Section 8 home for rent.

If you want to move to a different city or state, that is fine. You are only required to live within the area of your current PHA for one year. After that, you can move anywhere in the United States and still keep your housing voucher as long as you still meet the requirements.

Your Obligations When Living in Section 8 Rentals

If approved for Section 8 housing, you have certain responsibilities. Like with any other rental property, you will sign a lease with the landlord and are obligated to comply with all of the lease terms. For example, if the lease says no pets are allowed, you can’t have a pet in the unit. If there are restrictions on noise or parking, you have to follow those rules. 

You must keep the Section 8 apartment or house in good repair. In addition, you have to pay your share of the rent on time each month. Otherwise your HUD housing assistance may be in danger of being taken away. 

If you have any change to your family income or composition, like a dependent child turning 18, for example, you are required to let the PHA know immediately. You are not allowed to allow anyone to  move into your home without first getting permission from your PHA, which will need to check and approve their eligibility status.

If you do not follow these rules, you could potentially lose or see a reduction of your Section 8 to your benefits.