It is completely normal to find yourself in a tight spot, financially. Of course, no one wants to be financially struggling. (In your head, you would rather be in a beach house and courted by four butlers named Jameson, but unfortunately you don’t live in your head. You are in the real world.) If you find yourself stuck and you need help to get out of this sticky situation, then you should consider the Section 8 Housing Assistance Program. You’re probably wondering what that is, aren’t you? Well, the Section 8 Housing Assistance Program is a benefits program that assists low-income families and individuals.
The Section 8 Housing Assistance Program is financial assistance that comes in the form of housing vouchers. You can choose a housing unit and use the housing voucher, which will pay for a portion of the rental costs. (Sounds pretty neat, especially when you started with nothing but sadness and a really expensive house. Now, you may have nothing, but you have a nice home to stay in without worrying too much.)
What is Section 8 Housing Assistance?
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a program called the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also referred to as, “Section 8 project based rental assistance,” “Section 8 assisted living,” or just “Section 8”. This program grants housing choice vouchers to qualifying individuals. This Section 8 relocation assistance has four fundamental criteria that determine if a person is eligible to receive the help they need. The criteria are income level, family status, eviction history, and citizenship. It is very important to learn if you may be eligible for Section 8 assistance. People that do not meet all four requirements listed below are not eligible to receive a Section 8 voucher. It is also important to note that you do have the opportunity to apply for Section 8 housing online!
The Section 8 Housing Assistance Program is a benefits program that issues vouchers. The Housing and Urban Development Department created this Program, but your local Public Housing Agency administers the Section 8 Program. Recipients are given housing vouchers who, then, choose a housing unit of their choosing. If you are a recipient, you have to make sure that the housing unit you chose is rented under the Section 8 Assistance Program.
How to Get Section 8 Housing Assistance?
With the Section 8 Assistance Program, there are four main factors that determine if you qualify financial assistance. The four main factors are: family status and size, income level, citizenship status, and eviction history. Each aspect will define whether you are eligible for Section 8 Assistance. In order for the Program to accept you, you will need to meet all of the requirements. There are exceptions to each requirement, but you should make sure that your current situation meets as many of the requirements as possible. You should also consider that once you apply, you will automatically be wait-listed. This is due to the fact that there are many families who are applying, just like you, but there are limited funds to this Program. (Just be patient, and let the magic happen.)
Family Status Requirement
There are requirements that your family status must meet, in order to qualify for Section 8 government assistance. The Housing and Urban Development Department has set their definition of a family. However, they have authorized flexibility to Public Housing Authorities of their definition of a family as well. You want to be sure to get in contact with your local PHA in order to see if your family is eligible. Make sure that your current situation is in accordance with the specific criteria when you submit a Section 8 assistance application.
However, the following conditions determine whether you are eligible, mostly they are general family requirements. The conditions are:
- Where at least one person is over the age of 62.
- With or without children.
- Where one or more people in the household have a disability.
- Has been displaced from their home. This displacement could have happened for a variety of reasons from government action to damage and/or disaster caused by a federally recognized disaster, and more.
- A tenant who doesn’t leave a unit after the other members of their family has left the unit. In this case, the family of the tenant must already be receiving Section 8 assistance.
- Or, if a single person doesn’t meet any of the conditions mentioned above.
Income Level Requirement
Another determining factor of Section 8 rental assistance eligibility is the income level requirement. The Section 8 Assistance Program assists low income individuals who need help most. This means that in order to qualify for help, a family’s income every year must be below a specific amount. Your family’s income level also defines how much financial assistance you will receive. Since Section 8 Assistance aims to assist low-income communities, every penny counts. (Or, in this case, every lack thereof.)
You might find that your overall income level falls under one of three categories. These income level categories are: “low income”, “very low income”, and “extremely low income”. If you want to understand the income level categories and where you end up, you can always use the HUD’s website tool. This will allow you to identify where you stand (income level-wise) and how much you could receive from the Section 8 Program. By knowing how much you will receive, you can create a game plan, rather than finding out when you receive your benefits.
Different Levels of Low Income
Every year the Housing and Urban Development Department specifies income limits that are. These income limits are divided into three categories. The three categories are low income, very low income, and extremely low income. The area defines the actual income levels, because the actual income levels are determined as a percentage of the area’s median income level.
- Low Income: 80% of the area’s median income level.
- Very Low Income: 50% of the area’s median income level.
- Extremely Low Income: 30% of the area’s median income level.
Size of Family
These income limits also coincide with a family’s size. Income limits are designed for families containing anywhere from one to eight individuals. Families of one that are extremely low-income may make $15,000 a year. But for a family of eight, $30,000 a year may be considered as an extremely low-income level. The Housing and Urban Development Department decides the family size requirements and the local PHA also contributes to these requirements. The most common aspects that the Program takes into consideration are whether you have children and if any family member in your household currently has a disability. Also, the Program would like to know if you experienced forced displacement due to an evacuation, government action, or any other reason.
These three aspects will determine the amount of assistance you will receive from the Section 8 Program.
Prioritization of Extremely Low Income:
There is prioritization that happens for Section 8 vouchers to low income individuals. People that are in more need (extremely low-income level) get first priority when it comes to available assistance vouchers. The next priority is the very low-income level, and the last priority is the low-income level. The main priority is extremely-low income families and individuals because they are the most financially struggling. This Program focuses on helping families and individuals who are in need of help the most.
How Is a Family’s Income Calculated?
In order to properly determine a family’s yearly income, the Program considers many key aspects. These aspects measure how much financial assistance a family might need. It also defines the current financial situation of the family, which paints a picture for the Program. The Program includes all sources of income when determining the income of the family. These sources will include:
- Overtime Pay
- Retirement Fund
- Interest or Dividends from Assets
- Retirement Fund
- Child Support
- Social Security
- Lottery Winnings
The HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Guidebook reviews any other sources of income, as well as, exclusions.
Eviction History Requirement
A key aspect to the Section 8 Program is eviction history. A person’s eviction history informs the Program on the type of tenant the recipient used to be. There is a possibility that you might be unreliable or careless with where you live. With this in mind, people are not eligible to receive Section 8 vouchers if they:
- Have been evicted from a property within the last three years due to drug-related criminal activity.
- Have been convicted of producing methamphetamines in assisted project housing.
Citizenship Status Requirement
The final factor that determines your eligibility is your citizenship status. There is a possibility that you can qualify for Section 8 Assistance, if you are not an American citizen. American citizens or those who have a qualifying immigrant status have access to these assistance vouchers. You can determine your immigrant status eligibility in the HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Guidebook.
If you are an American citizen, your local public housing authority will:
- Ask that you sign a declaration stating that you and all members of your HUD defined “family” are American citizens.
- Some public housing authorities will also individually check each family member’s citizen status through documentation like a social security card, U.S. passport, and more.
If you have an eligible immigrant status, your local Public Housing Authority (PHA) will:
- Ask that you sign a declaration stating that you have an eligible immigrant status.
- Have provided INS Documents to verify information with the INS and prove immigration status.
- Have you sign a consent form to authorize usage of the information obtained from you.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course. In the case that you have a family with both eligible and non-eligible immigration statuses, then you can still receive housing assistance. However, the received amount is calculated based on the percentage of family members who are eligible for housing aid. This means that having family members with non-eligible immigration statuses will not prevent them from becoming a recipient. But, the Program will disregard the non-eligible family members when calculating the financial assistance you will receive.
In conclusion, the Section 8 Assistance Program is a good thing for you, a very good thing. You may have to wait a while in order to receive any financial assistance. But, you will be able to save a big chunk of change without worrying about next month’s expenses. The Section 8 Program will help you find an affordable housing unit and partially pay for the rent. However, in order to qualify for the Program, there are four requirements that you need to meet. These requirements are: income level, family status and size, citizenship status, and eviction history. You will find that the requirements may vary from one state to another; this is why you should contact your local Public Housing Authority (PHA). (They are the ones in charge of the Program, so you were going to call them anyway.)
You should keep in mind that there are certain exceptions, where the Program would automatically disqualify you. This mostly has to do with your eviction history. If you were evicted because you were involved in drug-related criminal activity in the last three years, then you will be disqualified. Also, if you have been convicted of producing methamphetamines in assisted project housing, then you should not hold your breath on getting accepted. But, other than that, you might still have a shot.
Before you jump the gun and apply right away, make sure you are qualified to apply. If you apply and you do not meet all the requirements, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. But, if you meet the eligibility requirements then you should hurry. The Section 8 Assistance Program is a first-come first-serve program, so hurry up and get going!
U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Housing Choice Voucher :Chapter 5.” n.d. HUD.gov. 26 06 2021 <https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/DOC_35615.PDF>.