Guide to the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Commonly known as Section 8, the housing choice voucher (HCV) program is a government-funded program that allows low-income families to have safe and decent housing. In order to obtain housing funds, households need to meet certain requirements. This can include income, citizenship and immigration status as well as family composition requirements.

By understanding the HCV program, you can learn if your family qualifies for the program and what information you will need to provide once you are ready to apply. Eligible applicants can receive aid immediately or be placed on a waiting list until financial resources become available. This depends on the amount of Section 8 funds available in your area.

Purpose of the Housing Choice Voucher Program 

It is important that you have a thorough understanding of this program. The HCV is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD provides Section 8 funding to public housing agencies (PHAs) who administer these monetary benefits at the local level.

This program’s purpose is to help qualifying low-income households obtain adequate housing for their families. If an applicant is approved for the program, they can use benefits to live in an apartment, townhouse or home that has been approved by the HUD. Since the PHAs receive the funding, they will provide the money to the landlord for the Section 8 home, which will in turn reduce the rent the household will have to pay each month.

How to Qualify for the HCV Program

To become eligible for Section 8 housing, your family must meet specific requirements. The qualifications that HUD is looking for applicants to meet relate to:

  • Citizenship. 
  • Immigration status. 
  • Income limits. 
  • Other relevant criteria as determined by the PHA. 

Furthermore, keep in mind that these vouchers provided through the HCV will only be given to qualifying United States citizens and residents with eligible immigration status. If you wonder if you meet these requirements, contact your nearest PHA. 

Next, remember that being eligible for Section 8 funds means that your household meets the income restrictions set by the HUD and your local PHA. This income limit is calculated based on the average income in the county or metropolitan area you live in. 

Vouchers will only be given to the families who have an income that is less than 50 percent of the average income for the area they live in. Additionally, remember the PHAs are also legally required to give at least 75 percent of the funds to families with especially low incomes. This means that their annual income level is less than 30 percent of the average income in that area.

Moreover, funds will only be distributed to households that meet the definition of a family according to the HUD. There are several different definitions, but some of these include households:

  • That consist of only one member.
  • That do or do not have children. 
  • Where at least one member is disabled.
  • Where at least one family member is 62 years of age or older. 

Alongside these three requirements, the PHA will also review the rental and eviction history of the household. Depending on the reason why a family was previously evicted, they may not be eligible to receive Section 8. 

To find out if your family is eligible for benefits, you can contact your local PHA to verify your information. If you qualify to receive benefits, any information that your local PHA has regarding your circumstances will be used to calculate the benefits you will receive for housing.

Learn About the Benefits of the HCV 

The HCV program distributes financial assistance every month. HCV funds go directly from the PHA to the landlord to cover a portion of your rent. When you are receiving Section 8 funds every month, your family is only responsible for the difference between your official rent cost and what is paid by the local PHA. Once the HUD finds you eligible, you can become eligible for other government aid programs that provide financial and career benefits.

How to Apply for the HCV Program

It is important for you to apply immediately with your local PHA if you need housing because funding for the program is scarce. In many cases, you must finish an interview at your local PHA office. In addition to giving personal information on the whole household, you must provide documentation to the PHA in order to prove the information you provided. This can include proof of income from all members of the household.

When you are approved for benefits, you may be found eligible to receive help as soon as possible or will be put on a waiting list. This depends on where you apply. 

About Section 8 Waiting Lists and Preferences

There is a high demand for housing assistance, and the Section 8 waiting lists can be quite long. Therefore, remember that if you are put on a waiting list, you will not receive housing until funds becomes available. The PHA will contact you once finances become available. During this time, there is nothing your household can do besides continue meeting the program eligibility requirements. 

Another detail to note is that there are counties and metropolitan area might have longer waiting lists than other types of areas. It is recommended that you contact different PHAs in order to see if they have any housing available. By applying for Section 8 in a different area, you may be able to receive benefits sooner. 

In many places, the PHAs may have preferences set for certain types of applicants. Individuals who meet these requirements may be eligible to receive priority assistance. Preferences may be awarded to families who are: 

  • Currently homeless or living in unsuitable housing arrangements.
  • Involuntarily displaced.
  • Have more than 50 percent of their income going towards their rent.

Continued Qualifications with Section 8

Once you are approved to receive Section 8, you need to report any changes to your family to your PHA. Some of these changes may include members leaving or joining your household. If you do not report this information to your housing authority, you may risk losing your benefits. Therefore, it is important that you update your PHA with any changes regarding your household.