Eligibility for Housing Choice Vouchers

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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 that aren’t exactly ideal for families to raise their children. That’s where the government comes in.

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, here’s what you need to know about them.

Understanding How Housing Choice Vouchers Work

Section 8, the most popular voucher program, offers flexibility to low-income families that need a place to live. If a person qualifies, they can rent a home from any property manager that accepts the vouchers. The program essentially pays for a certain amount of the renter’s housing costs, and they pay the rest of it.

Properties that accept housing vouchers 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, dilapidated building as a Section 8 house.

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 household size is considered, as if their total annual gross income. If they make more than 50% of the median income in their area, they won’t qualify for the loan.

U.S. Citizens and non-citizens with a valid immigration status are eligible to receive this assistance.

The PHA in their city will make a determination and then likely place the applicant on a waiting list. That list is often incredibly long and could take as long as two years before something becomes available. Applicants that are in a particularly dire situation may be bumped up on the list.

What Is Everyone Responsible for?

All parties — the applicant, PHA, and owner/property manager — enter into an agreement once everything is hammered out. 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 these changes need to be reported immediately. The PHA must ensure that the payment to the landlord is on time and also provide yearly inspections of the property to ensure that it’s up to code. Finally, the owner/property manager of the residence must maintain a clean, working, 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’s worth it in the end as long as they know and understand their rights and responsibilities.