How to Get a Section 8 Voucher

You can struggle to make ends meet if you suffer a sudden job loss, illness, or injury. It could be challenging for you to make rent payments if your emergency money runs out. In that case, Section 8 housing assistance might be available to you.

Developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Section 8 is a government program (HUD). The program offers monthly rental assistance to qualifying individuals and families.

However, who is eligible under Section 8? Knowing who is qualified and how to apply is useful if you require housing aid.

Main Points
A government program called Section 8 offers housing vouchers to low-income families and individuals.
Who is eligible for Section 8 is mostly decided by household size, income, and place of residence.
Despite the fact that some non-citizens might also be qualified for housing vouchers through the program, U.S. citizenship is necessary to qualify for Section 8.
To learn who is eligible for Section 8 in your area, get in touch with your local public housing agency.

What Is Housing Under Section 8?

A government program called Section 8 housing offers housing vouchers to low-income families and individuals. Participants in the program are free to select their own accommodation as long as it complies with the program’s requirements. Those who use Section 8 can therefore search for single-family homes, townhomes, or flats in addition to subsidized housing buildings.

Workings of Section 8 Vouchers

Public housing authorities issue housing-choice vouchers (PHAs). The PHAs get funding from the federal government to provide vouchers to those who qualify for Section 8 housing.

An person or family who obtains a housing-choice voucher effectively receives a rent discount. For the Section 8 beneficiary, the PHA gives the landlord a housing subsidy. The beneficiary then foots the bill for the difference between the amount of rent covered under Section 8 and the actual amount payable.

Families may be permitted by their PHA to use their voucher to buy a modest home instead of renting under certain circumstances.

How Much Assistance Does Section 8 Offer?

The amount that people or families may get under Section 8 regulations in order to use toward rent payments is not predetermined. As an alternative, the PHA sets a payment standard, which is the minimum sum required to rent a modestly priced home in the local housing market.

A family receiving housing vouchers might opt to rent a home above or below the PHA’s established payment guideline. Typically, applicants are required to contribute 30% of their monthly adjusted gross income toward utilities and rent. If the rent is greater than the acceptable payment threshold, in rare situations this might rise to 40%.

Say, for instance, that you reside in Los Angeles. The $2,248 payment minimum for a two-bedroom property is determined by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles. If your monthly salary was $2,800 and you were eligible for the program, the 30% rule would require you to pay $840 for rent and utilities.

The payment standard in Philadelphia is implemented based on fair market rents by zip code. Depending on the location of the premises, standards are divided into basic, conventional, midrange, opportunity, and high opportunity rentals. A two-bedroom apartment in an area with basic rent would therefore have a payment standard of $1,012. A two-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood with high potential rent has a payment standard of $1,870.

Assuming you receive program approval and have a monthly salary of $1,900. You decide on a unit in the middle with a $1,287 payment standard. For that flat, you would be liable for $570 in rent and utilities.

Remember that a landlord’s ability to set a rent price is unaffected by baseline payment rules.

Why There Is a Section 8

To assist low-income families and individuals in finding affordable housing, the Section 8 program was created. The program was created by HUD and approved by Congress in 1974 to offer housing assistance to qualified tenants. The main purpose of Section 8 was to address the growing portion of income that families had to set aside for paying rent.

Voucher Requirements for Section 8

To whom does Section 8 apply? The response is complicated. It depends on your capacity to satisfy four particular standards set by HUD.

Income Caps

Income restrictions that are imposed on Section 8 applicants are established periodically by HUD. These income restrictions are determined as a percentage of the national median income for each respective region. There are three tiers of acceptable income: 5

  • 30% of the area’s median income represents an extremely low income.
  • 50% of the area’s median income constitutes extremely low income.
  • 80% of the area’s median income constitutes a moderately poor income.

These income restrictions take into account both your household size and the area in which you reside. The 2021 restrictions for a four-person home in Los Angeles are as follows: 6

  • Very little money: $35,450
  • Extremely little money: 59,100
  • $94,600 is a moderately modest income.

You can utilize a HUD online search tool to look up local income restrictions.


Those with extremely low incomes typically receive priority for Section 8 housing vouchers.

Constitutional Status

Only those who fall under specific immigrant categories and are citizens of the United States are eligible for Section 8 benefits. Every member of your household must sign a certification form when you apply for Section 8 certifying that you are:

  • American national OR
  • A qualified alien, OR
  • Deciding not to declare eligibility

For HUD’s purposes, a declaration is sufficient to demonstrate citizenship. However, your PHA may want more paperwork, such as:

  • American passport (s)
  • Alien resident card (s)
  • Registration card(s) \sSocial Security card(s) (s)

In addition, eligible immigrants may be asked to present documentation from the Immigration and Naturalization Service attesting to their immigration statuses or sign a form granting the PHA permission to utilize that information.

Families with both eligible and ineligible non-citizen members can still apply for Section 8 aid, but the amount of help will depend on how many eligible people live in the home.

Family Situation

Applicants for Section 8 must also fit the HUD definition of a family. According to HUD, a family is any person or group of people who fits any of the following criteria: 8

  • Having kids
  • Have at least one relative who is 62 years or older
  • Have at least one disabled family member who has been uprooted from their home for a qualifying reason
  • Once resided with those getting Section 8 benefits, but now lives alone after other family members have left

No children are necessary to be eligible for Section 8; single people are also eligible.

History of Eviction

Families or individuals must typically have a good rental history in order to qualify under Section 8. Those who have been evicted from a property due to drug use or other criminal activities are unable to apply, according to HUD. If you’ve ever been found guilty of producing methamphetamine in a public housing project, you may also be disqualified. 8

In addition, your Section 8 application may be rejected if you fail to comply with any eligibility guidelines set forth by your PHA.

How to Use

You must get in touch with your neighborhood Public Housing Agency to apply for Section 8 housing-choice vouchers. If the program is presently accepting new applicants, your PHA can let you know what paperwork you’ll need to submit an application. You might be able to submit an application by mail, in person, or online depending on where you live.

Fill out the application.

You must complete the housing-option voucher application that is used by your PHA. Depending on the information needed, you might be asked to provide any or all of the following:

  • Names of all those residing in your home, as well as your own
  • Name and address details for the household’s head
  • Dates, Social Security numbers, places of birth, and genders of
  • Every household member
  • Your ideal bedroom dimensions
  • Your military or veteran status
  • Your present state of homelessness
  • A criminal record
  • Status of residency Race, ethnicity, and language of origin
    status of disability
  • Past landlords’ names
  • Name of current employer and contact details

It’s crucial to fill out the application completely and accurately, whether you submit it online, in person, or by mail. Your application can be rejected if you omit information or provide false information.

Submit supplemental materials

Your PHA may request further supporting material after you have submitted your application. You could be asked for a variety of things, including:

  • Copies of each household member’s government-issued identification
  • Evidence of nationality (i.e., passports, birth certificates, etc.)
  • Statements of bank accounts
  • Pay slips
  • Tax filings
  • Copies of your most recent lease

In order to expedite the processing of your application, you must respond to any information requested.

Publish a Waiting List.

If you are granted Section 8 eligibility, you’ll probably be put on a waiting list. All individuals and families who have been granted housing-choice vouchers are included in this waiting list. You can be taken off the waiting list and start receiving voucher benefits as soon as a house becomes available for rent.

If there are insufficient funds to provide all housing benefits, a PHA may close its waiting list to new applicants. Also, joining the waiting list does not guarantee that you will be able to find home immediately soon. A Section 8 candidate may need several years to reach to the top of the pool in some circumstances.

There are lottery drawings available in some states with closed Section 8 waiting lists, and these are accessible to people already on the list.

The conclusion

For those who qualify, Section 8 housing can help make housing more affordable. The common response to the question of who is eligible for Section 8 is those with low earnings. But, where you reside or how many people you live with can affect the income restrictions you are subject to and your ability to get assistance.

Section 8 is just one option if you need housing assistance, and it can take some time to get approved. If you are not eligible for a housing-choice voucher, you can still inquire with your public housing agency about other options for receiving rental help.

Questions and Answers (FAQs)

How can I instantly obtain Section 8 housing?

To learn more about applying for urgent housing assistance, get in touch with your neighborhood public housing agency. In order to assist families that are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or who are escaping situations including domestic abuse, dating violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, or stalking, the Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) program gives vouchers to local PHAs.

How can I find out where on the Section 8 waiting list I am?

By calling the number provided by your Public Housing Agency, you can find out where on the Section 8 waiting list you are. You might be able to check where you are on the waiting list or amend details about your application online.

When my child turns 18 what happens to my Section 8?

If your child reaches 18 while you are getting Section 8 help, it can jeopardize your eligibility for benefits. Whether it does depends on whether the youngster stays with you or starts earning money for the family. You can find out what income or household details you might need to update to assess your continuous eligibility for Section 8 by speaking with your public housing agency.