Section 8: 7 Commonly Asked Questions About the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

1. What is Section 8?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) is a program funded by the federal government. It issues vouchers to accepted applicants which are used to subsidize rental payments. For many families, Section 8 is the only thing keeping them in their homes. If you’re using Section 8 – or hope to in the near future – here’s what you need to know about getting in and staying in.



2. Who is Eligible to Apply for Section 8?

From the outset, you need to be eligible for the program or else you’ll be denied assistance. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has several key qualifications in place. In order to be eligible, you must:

– Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident

– Have a low income (determined by your income compared to the median income of the surrounding area)

The local Housing Authority that handles your specific application will require documentation proving the facts listed above.

Certain factors, besides income, may also play a role. Local Housing Authorities have permission from HUD to create and exercise preferences which make one applicant more likely to receive assistance than another. Examples of preferences might be veteran status or size of family.

It is important to recognize, however, that preferences are not overrides. No preference can make someone who earns too much eligible for the program.



3. What Type of Housing Can I Rent?

A house owned by the local PHA may be rented in accordance with Section 8, but a tenant also has the right to rent a privately owned home or apartment. A Housing Choice Voucher may not be used to pay for public, Native American, or college housing. Whatever the residence, it must pass basic PHA standards. These ensure that the house is structurally sound and safe to live in.

4. Will My Voucher Cover 100% of my Rent? 

No. Each tenant is responsible for paying the portion of his or her rent not subsidized by HUD. The tenant needs to pay an amount that is roughly equivalent to 30% of their monthly income, and the remaining portion will be covered by the voucher provided to the tenant.

The voucher may not be used for secondary homes, offices, or investment properties. It is only suitable for primary residences.

As long as the tenant obeys the law, the lease agreement and the rules governing the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), he will continue to receive assistance. It’s as simple as that.

5. How Long is the Wait Time to Receive Assistance? 

The demand for housing assistance is always high. That means that if you apply and are found to be eligible for subsidized housing, you’re unlikely to get it immediately. Most Housing Authorities have a waiting list for applicants, so it could take a while for you to find yourself in a subsidized unit.

Under special circumstances, families may be able to skip the waiting list and get into the first available unit. It doesn’t happen often, but such accommodations can be made for families who are displaced from public housing by foreclosure, HUD sale, or demolition. Other circumstances that can influence one’s time on the waiting list include disability, homelessness, advanced age, and domestic violence.



6. Can My Pet(s) Move-in With Me?

Just because you or your family were deemed eligible for Public or Section 8 housing does not mean that your pet will be. You will be responsible to learn about the pet policies for the unit you are looking to occupy.

Public housing agencies can set the pet policies however they please for their local area. They can also ban animals that they believe are dangerous, if state and local law allows it. Privately owned Section 8 units have their pet policies established by the owner of the unit. They have the freedom to charge pet fees or to require that your pet be spayed or neutered.

7. Is Section 8 Housing Safe?

HUD works hard to ensure that the homes its applicants reside in are structurally sound, free of health risks, and safe.  It has quality standards in place to guarantee that the homes are livable, whether they are public housing or Section 8 units.

Before a unit can be accepted into the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, it must be inspected by a HUD representative. It will continue to be inspected every year thereafter, as well. A few of the requirements include:

– Hot and cold running water

– Appropriate systems for heating and cooling

– Sanitary living spaces


Have other questions that were not answered in this article? Please get in touch with the Housing Authority with which you submitted your application and ask them any additional questions you may have directly.