Are You Eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher?

Need a Housing Choice Voucher? Find Out If YOU Are Eligible

( – If you are struggling to afford housing, then you may already know you have options.

One of those options is Section 8 housing. This is a government program that provides vouchers to eligible families, including the elderly and disabled.

What Are Housing Choice Vouchers?

Housing choice vouchers allow people to live in a home of their choice that meets program requirements. Landlords sign up for section 8 with the understanding that they will still be paid.

The voucher covers the difference between what they can afford to pay and the fair market rent; the amount they are given depends on the size of their household.

Are You Eligible For a Housing Choice Voucher?

Eligibility for housing choice vouchers is determined by two main factors: Income and housing size. The income maximums are determined locally based on cost of living; typically they are calculated relative to the median income. In most counties, total household income must not exceed 50% of the median income. PHAs also prioritize people with income that does not exceed 30 percent and, indeed, in some cases the waitlist may only be open to people with very low income. PHAs can also give preference to people who are homeless, paying an excessive amount for rent, or involuntarily displaced, such as by a natural disaster.

There are other eligibility requirements, which includes the fact that all household members must be either U.S. citizens or non-citizens with eligible immigration status, such as a non-citizen spouse with a green card.

In most counties, the funding available for housing choice vouchers is insufficient to meet the demand. Applicants are put on a waiting list and even the waiting list is fairly often closed.

What Housing Can You Choose?

While the vouchers are designed to give flexibility, such as allowing recipients to live within a reasonable distance of their work, there are some requirements, which include:

  • The landlord must agree. While many Section 8 recipients live in subsidized housing projects, you can technically live anywhere as long as the landlord agrees to use the voucher. The voucher is paid directly to the landlord.
  • The housing must pass Public Housing Authority (PHA) inspection standards. Quality standards vary, but typically include such things as structural deficiencies or lead-based paint. Make sure the housing chosen does not have damaged doors or locks, broken or unusable appliances, plumbing or engineering problems, etc. There also need to be enough emergency exits.
  • The PHA must agree that the rent the landlord is asking is reasonable. Sometimes negotiations can fall through and you may have to find another unit. You can, however, choose to pay more for housing. The minimum is 30%, but you can voluntarily pay more, which can sometimes be useful if it allows you to, for example, save a substantial amount on commute costs or avoid purchasing a car.

Can You Use the Voucher in a Different Location?

Because PHAs often have waiting lists, it’s sometimes worth checking in different locations to get assistance. Families can potentially get help faster by choosing the right jurisdiction.

In some cases, neighboring jurisdictions may have reciprocity, meaning that you can get the voucher in one county and get housing in the next county over. However, you have to live in the county issuing the voucher for twelve months. You can then move anywhere in the United States, including to another state. The procedures for moving are determined by the PHA, but they must allow you to move. Many people find relocation to be the best way out of poverty.

Section 8 housing choice vouchers are a valuable source of assistance for families in need. You are typically eligible if you make 50% or less of the median income in your county and are a U.S. citizen or qualified immigrant.

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