Eligibility for Housing Choice Vouchers

Introduction

In many cases, it’s hard for low-income Americans to find affordable housing on their own. Oftentimes, the limited options available to them are in unsafe neighborhoods. And, that is not exactly ideal for families to raise their children. This is where the government comes in.

It is not as easy as it sounds, but it is better than nothing at all. Both the federal government and state governments offer affordable housing subsidies for people who are struggling to pay their living expenses.

Voucher programs are particularly popular; they seem to make quite the difference. This article will tell you everything you need to know about them. The main factor that you need to focus on is the eligibility requirements. (You can’t just get in; this is the NBA of benefit programs.) Most voucher programs have a strict eligibility requirement that you need to meet. This would include your personal history and your financial situation. (It is more specific than that, but that’s basically the main idea.)

This article will inform on what a housing voucher is, the different types of programs that offer housing vouchers, and the programs’ eligibility. All of these factors are essential for you to know when you apply. With all of this information in your back pocket, then you will be able to get all your ducks in a row.

What is a Housing Voucher?

Section 8”, also known as “Project-Based Housing Choice Vouchers”, is the most popular voucher program that offers flexibility to low-income families. It provides you with a place to live. If a person qualifies, they can rent a home from any property manager that accepts the emergency housing choice vouchers. The Section 8 Choice Voucher Program essentially pays for a certain amount of the renter’s housing costs, and the renter pays the rest of it.

There are two types of initiatives that are under the Section 8 Assistance Program. These initiatives are: the Housing Choice Voucher and Project-Based Rental Assistance. Both programs may fall under the Section 8 Program, but the implementation is different. The Section 8 Program applies the Housing Choice Voucher Program by providing recipients with vouchers. These vouchers are available to use for a wide range of rental housing units. But, the only condition is that the landlord of the rental housing unit accepts the housing voucher. As for Project-Based Rental Assistance, a specific housing unit is tied to the Program that is rented by the landlord to low-income families and individuals. The landlords offer the housing cost at below market value since the Program subsidizes the rest of the amount.    (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

Properties that accept a Section 8 Choice Voucher need to pass inspections, in order to keep their residences up to code with the local public housing authority (PHA). In other words, a property manager won’t be permitted to offer a rundown, tattered building as a Section 8 housing unit.

3 Types of Section 8 Voucher Programs

There are three types of Section 8 Voucher Programs that you can choose from, depending on your current situation. The three types of Section 8 Voucher Programs are: Tenant-Based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV), HCV Home-ownership Voucher, and Project-Based Voucher (PBV). This article will give you a full overview on how each program works and how you can benefit from them. You should keep in mind that not all programs apply to your financial situation. Some of them could be your perfect fit, while others could leave you still in a sticky situation. (Benefits.com)

Make sure that you choose the right program that will help you, financially. You will find that each Section 8 Program has its own set of requirements that you need to meet. (It’s not a one-size-fits-all type of situation, but each program is specific in its own way. All of them are beneficial with the same purpose, but each program has different conditions.)

Tenant-Based Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV)

The first type of Section 8 Assistance Program is the Tenant-Based Housing Choice Voucher, which is the most common type of housing voucher. With this housing voucher, you can find your own housing unit to rent, as long as the landlord of the unit is keen on participating in the voucher program. You should keep in mind that participation in the housing choice voucher program is completely up to the landlord. (No one can force them to participate, no matter how stern you are when you talk to them.)

With the Tenant-Based Housing Choice Voucher, your local Public Housing Authority (PHA) could offer you a list of approved housing units. But, it is up to you to choose from the list or choose a housing unit from elsewhere. On the other hand, an inspection on your housing unit  must be performed by your local PHA before approving the unit. Also, your local PHA could offer advice on the size of your rental unit, based on your household size.

Lucky for you, if you and your family decide to move, then the voucher moves with you. All you need to do is notify your local PHA and landlord about the change. You will also need to terminate your current lease. Typically, you can keep your housing voucher for as long as the PHA stays funded and as long as you follow the PHA participation regulations of the Program.

HCV Home-ownership Vouchers

Another program that is under the Section 8 Program is the HCV Home-ownership Voucher Program. This program helps individuals and families locate and purchase a housing unit to own. The HCV Home-ownership Voucher program provides families with a home ownership voucher that can be used to help buy a housing unit.  This voucher can also provide assistance with home ownership costs that show up every month.  Here’s the catch though, the HCV Home-ownership Voucher Program is not available in every local PHA. Unlike the Tenant-Based Housing Choice Voucher Program, the HCV Program is not mandatory for every PHA.

You will need to ensure that your local Public Housing Authority offers this Program. Once you find out that your local PHA provides this service, then you will need to meet income and employment requirements. The requirements will determine whether you are eligible for the Program or not. To be eligible for the Program, you must be a first-time homeowner and finish the pre-assistance home ownership and housing counseling program. The pre-assistance home ownership and housing counseling program is generally a requirement from your local PHA. You should think of the training program as a crash-course for applicants, since you will be a first-time home buyer. (This guarantees that you do not screw up badly and they have to clean up the mess.)

Project-Based Vouchers (PBV)

Project-based vouchers are different from tenant-based housing choice vouchers in one main aspect. These Project-based vouchers are not transportable and cannot move with you when you move out of a housing unit. Each project-based voucher is linked to a specific rental housing unit, rather than the family. (How does that work, you ask? Well, good question.) The landlord signs an agreement with the local PHA to keep 25% of rental units aside for Section 8 tenants. Each Project-Based Voucher unit receives funding from the Housing and Urban Development. But, funds are given to the housing units only  if a family that the Section 8 Program approves is currently occupying the unit.

In most cases, you will dedicate about 30% of your overall income to rent while the project-based voucher will cover the remaining amount. The local Public Housing Authority and the landlord agree on the total rental price of the housing unit. Similar to the Tenant-Based Housing Choice Program and the HCV Home-ownership Voucher Program, the Project-Based Voucher Program requires annual inspection of the rental property to ensure the unit is up to standards.

Project-based vouchers are tied to specific rental units, not tenants. But, there are exceptions to that rule. Sometimes the PHA office will convert a Project-Based Voucher to a Tenant-Based Housing Voucher. This happens when the recipient has lived for a year in its Section 8 housing unit and is still in good standing with the PHA.

Are You Eligible?

The Public Housing Authority (PHA) will look at a number of factors to determine if a person is eligible for the subsidy. First, the PHA considers the household size, or how many members are in your household. This shows the PHA how much assistance you might need and if you can cover all of the housing expenses on your own or not. Additionally, the household size and the total annual gross income of the household are correlated. If you make more than 50% of the median income in your area, then they won’t qualify for the loan or housing choice voucher program. Both the household size and income level define whether you will receive assistance or not. It also determines how much assistance you will receive, if you are accepted. (Chen)

The third thing that the PHA considers is your citizenship status. U.S. Citizens and non-citizens with a valid immigration status are eligible to receive this type of assistance. Also, your eviction history is an important factor. If you were evicted for criminal activity that is drug-related, then you will not be qualified to apply.

The PHA in their city will make a determination based on the housing choice voucher application. After you apply, the Program will probably waitlist you. That list is often incredibly long and could take as long as two years before something becomes available. The Program could bump you up on the list if your application reflects your dire situation.

What Is Everyone Responsible for?

All parties — the applicant, the local Public Housing Authority, and owner/property manager — enter into an agreement once everything is settled. The applicant (now tenant) is responsible for paying their portion of rent on time.

If there are any changes to the household like someone moved out, a marriage, a death, etc., then the tenant needs to report these changes immediately. The PHA must ensure that the payment to the landlord is on time. Also, the PHA must provide yearly inspections of the property to ensure that it’s up to code. Finally, the owner or property manager of the residence must maintain a clean, functional, and safe house for their tenants to the standard set by the PHA.

Once an applicant goes through the approval process, it may take a long time to get a home. But, it is worth it in the end, as long as they know and understand their rights and responsibilities.

Each party must fulfill their role throughout the implementation of the housing voucher. The tenant must pay their portion on time and report on any changes to the household. The PHA must make sure to provide the housing voucher payment on time. Also, the PHA must perform yearly inspections to guarantee the property’s standard. As for the landlord, they are responsible to keep the housing unit clean and safe for their renters.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you are having any issues with where to live, then you should consider the Section 8 Program. The Section 8 Program “assists low-income families, or those with disabilities, in finding safe and affordable housing in the private market. Local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) issue housing choice vouchers to qualified families. The program is funded by the Federal Department of Urban Development (HUD).” (At least, according to Investopedia.) Simply put, the Section 8 Program offers housing vouchers that will help you pay rent for your housing unit.

There are different types of housing vouchers. (Three, if you want to be specific about it.) Each voucher program is under the Section 8 Program, but they have their own set of rules. The three types of housing vouchers are: Tenant-Based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV), HCV Home-ownership Voucher, and Project-Based Voucher (PBV). It is your job to find out which one of these vouchers will suit you and your current situation better. (You wouldn’t want to ask for financial assistance and end up deeper in debt because of the financial assistance. It sounds unlikely, but poor planning makes it possible.)

Works Cited

Benefits.com. What Is Section 8 Housing? 30 10 2020. 13 07 2021 <https://www.benefits.com/section-8>.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Policy Basics: The Housing Choice Voucher Program. 12 04 2021. 13 07 2021 <https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/the-housing-choice-voucher-program>.

Chen, James. Housing Choice Voucher Program. 14 01 2021. 13 07 2021 <https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/housing-choice-voucher-program.asp>.

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