What are the 4 Section 8 Requirements?

Rent can be a burden for so many people. According to Statista, the average monthly rent for an apartment in the United States in February 2022 was $1,295. Not everyone can pay that much money for rent if they want their housing expenses to be affordable. For example, a person who works 40 hours a week at $12 an hour only makes $1,920 a month before taxes.

According to the definition from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), affordable housing expenses should be no more than 30% of a household’s gross monthly income. That means that they should not be spending more than $576 a month if they are making a monthly income of $1,920. That is far below the average rent cost of $1,295! If you find yourself in such a bind and need assistance to get out, you should look into the Section 8 Housing Assistance program.

What is the Section 8 Program?

The official name of this program is the Housing Choice Voucher program. It also goes by the name of Section 8. Both terms refer to the same federal housing assistance program that has been helping low-income people with rentals since 1974. HUD funds this program, but it is administered by the local public housing agencies (PHAs).

As indicated by its name, the HCV program provides low-income families and individuals with housing choice vouchers. The vouchers will be paid to the landlord of the rental that the recipients choose on behalf of the household. However, the housing unit that recipients choose must meet specific housing quality standards (HQS). HQS regulations currently include 13 major requirements of housing quality, performance requirements, and acceptability conditions for meeting each performance requirement.

How Effective is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

Research confirms that vouchers reduce homelessness and help people with other hardships. Housing vouchers help families spend more of their limited resources on other fundamental needs by lowering their rental costs. Families who pay a high percentage of their income for rent spend less on food, clothing, health care, and transportation than those who pay less.

With the voucher, the amount of money you will pay for rent typically won’t exceed 30% of your income. However, by law, the unit a family chooses must not have a rent where the family pays more than 40% of their adjusted monthly income towards rent if the unit is above the payment standard.

About the HCV Program Eligibility…

There are four primary factors that determine if you are eligible for assistance under the Section 8 program including:

  1. The Family Situation
  2. Total Income Limit
  3. Citizenship Status
  4. Eviction History

You must fulfill all of the requirements for the program to accept you. For each requirement, there might be some exceptions. You have to make sure that your situation fits the basic requirements as closely as possible. Keep in mind that specific eligibility requirements will vary depending on the area.

You should also keep in mind that once you apply and if approved, you will likely be placed on a waitlist. A waitlist is needed because many families are applying, yet there is only a limited amount of support available for this program. Hang in there, you will get your voucher eventually if you are approved!

The Family Situation

To qualify for Section 8 assistance, your family status must meet certain conditions. Although HUD has a specific definition of a family, they authorize the local PHA to set their definition of a family as well.

You should contact your local PHA to check if your family is qualified. Use the following conditions as a general guideline to see if your family qualifies for the program:

  • You have at least one person over the age of 62.
  • Your family has or doesn’t have children.
  • There’s at least one person with a disability in the family.
  • If your family has been displaced involuntarily for qualifying reasons.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to meet all of the conditions above! But if you meet one then you may be eligible. Changes in household size must be reported immediately as they affect the amount of help you can receive.

Total Income Limit 

The income level requirement is another aspect that determines Section 8 assistance eligibility. Since the HCV program aims to help low-income people, applicants’ annual income should not exceed a certain limit. Qualified families typically need to earn less than 50% of the local area’s median income (AMI). It is different from one area to another. Contact your local PHA to find out what the requirements are in your locality. Some types of income an applicant should report on the Section 8 application include:

  • Employment earnings
  • Overtime earnings
  • Bonuses and/or tips
  • Social Security payments
  • Disability income
  • Death benefits
  • Insurance payments
  • Unemployment payments
  • Military pay
  • Alimony
  • Child support

Your local housing agency may also need your recent bank statements. The specific documentation that you will need to provide can vary as well.

Who gets it first?

By law, at least 75% of recipients of HCV must have an income that is no more than 30% of the local AMI. The specific income limits are determined by HUD and will vary depending on the location. Besides that, local PHAs have the discretion to have local preferences when selecting applicants on the waiting list. The specific preferences will vary, but some examples could include:

  • Those that are homeless
  • Those that are dealing with substandard living conditions
  • Households that pay more than 50% of their income towards rent
  • Households that have been involuntarily displaced

Citizenship Status

Only American citizens and qualifying non-citizens can benefit from this program. That is why when applying for these benefits, applicants and the family members that will be in their household will need to sign a certification form. These certification forms will state the citizenship status of the individual. However, there may be more documentation required by your local PHA. This can include documentation like:

  • Passports from the U.S.
  • Registration cards
  • Resident alien cards
  • Social Security cards

It’s important to note that if your household has members that have qualifying citizenship status and don’t have qualifying citizenship status, you still may be able to receive benefits. However, the benefits will only be based on the number of qualifying individuals.

Eviction History

The eviction history of a person informs the local PHA about the type of renter the recipient used to be. Who knows, someone could have been unreliable or careless with previous rentals. That is why typically households will need to have a positive rental history to qualify. Applicants may automatically disqualify if they have a history of eviction from a property for a drug-related activity or other criminal activity. Another way that an applicant may be disqualified is if they have been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines in government housing.


To summarize, the Section 8 Assistance program can be the ideal solution to your problem with paying affordable rent. It is possible that you will have to wait for a while before receiving any financial support. However, you will be able to save a significant amount of money on your housing expenses with this support opportunity if you qualify.

The Section 8 program gives recipients the freedom to find a qualifying unit of their choice and pays a portion of your rent with housing choice vouchers on your behalf to the landlord. Eligibility requirements will vary depending on the area. However, four factors that will be important are income level, family status, citizenship status, and eviction history. If you want to begin the process or have any questions about this housing support opportunity, get in touch with your local PHA.

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