Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Application Guide
IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN APPLYING FOR SECTION 8 HOUSING, THEN THIS GUIDE IS FOR YOU…
In this guide we explain the full process you have to go through if you’re interested in applying for Section 8, from the time you apply for a Section 8 waiting list, to the time you’re issued a Housing Choice Voucher and become eligible to look for housing.
1. LOCATE A HOUSING AUTHORITY NEAR YOU
The very first step you should do is find you local Housing Authority. The Housing Choice Voucher Program, as its officially called, is administered at the local level by local Housing Authorities.
If you haven’t done this step yet, you can find your local Housing Authority by selecting your state here, and then locating the Housing Authority for your area, from the list.
2. CHECK FOR QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS WITH YOUR LOCAL HA
Get in touch with your local Housing Authority to get all the details about Section 8 qualification requirements in your area. In addition to a few basic requirements like U.S. citizenship, certain permanent residence status and owned assets, there is an income requirement. The income requirement is based on the Area Median Income (AMI) for your area, and generally if you earn less than 50% of the AMI, you qualify for Section 8 housing. But please be aware that the Housing Choice Voucher Program, by law, is required to target 75% of assistance to those families that earn 30%, or even less, of the Area Median Income.
Please get in touch with your local Housing Authority for more details, and to learn the AMI for your area.
Here’s an example to help you illustrate whether you qualify for Section 8 based on your income:
Assuming you know your yearly gross income, as well as the Area Median Income for your area, divide your yearly gross income by the AMI in your area to calculate your income percentage.
We know this can sound confusing, so here’s a “John Smith” illustration for you:
Suppose John lives in Los Angeles, CA. John’s yearly gross income is $18,500, and the AMI in his area (Los Angeles County) is $62,400. To calculate his income percentage, John divides his yearly gross income ($18,500) by the AMI of his area ($62,400), and gets this number: 0.2964 ($18,500 divided by $62,400 = 0.2964)
To get the final percentage, John multiplies 0.2964 by 100 and arrives at the final number of 29.64% ($0.2964 multiplied by 100 = 29.64)
So does John qualify for Section 8 based on his income, if his income is 29.64% of the AMI of his area? Yes he does per our explanation above.
3. OK, SO LET’S SAY YOU QUALIFY FOR SECTION 8, NOW WHAT?
The good news: You qualify for Section 8 and can apply without the fear of being rejected later on the basis of your income, etc. The bad news: The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is EXTREMELY oversubscribed and you will most likely need to get on the waiting list and stay there for quite some time before receiving the assistance. But don’t get discouraged and let this stop you from applying. If you never get on the waiting list, you will never receive Section 8 housing assistance.
Some Housing Authorities keep their waiting lists open year round, while others close the waiting list for months, or even years at a time. Please contact your Housing Authority and ask if their Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher waiting list is currently open.
Also, in certain special cases, Housing Authorities may have priority waiting lists for victims of domestic violence, people who are homeless, or other special groups, so we highly recommend you to get in touch with your local Housing Authority and ask if they have a priority waiting list, and who qualifies for it if they do.
Important note: You can apply for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher waiting list anywhere in the country, per Federal law! That means that if you live in Los Angeles and want to get on a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher waiting list in Oregon, you can do so, by law. However, some Housing Authorities use a local residency preference (or other preferences), which means that if you apply together with local residents, they will be given preference on the waiting list, even if they applied later than you.
When we send you our open Section 8 waiting list alerts, we always try to specify how the applicants will be sorted on the waiting list and if it has any preferences to help you make a calculated decision whether it’s worth your time applying for a certain waiting list or not. Our research team works extremely hard to identify any OPEN Section 8 waiting lists and alert you about them. If you know of an open waiting list that we haven’t shared yet, please let us know.
4. ELIGIBILITY DETERMINATION AND ISSUANCE OF A VOUCHER
Once your name on the waiting list comes up and a voucher is made available, the Housing Authority will contact you to complete a full application and will also determine your eligibility for the program at this time. Please be aware that you will be required to provide full supporting documentation (things like income verification, bank statements, SS card, etc), and you’re not considered eligible until all your application materials are processed by the Housing Authority.
Also, if the waiting list had preferences, you will need to provide documentation of whatever preferences the Housing Authority had. If you submit for preferences that cannot be verified, you will lose your spot on the waiting list.
If the Housing Authority confirms your eligibility, you will be issued a voucher and become eligible to start your housing search. You will be required to live in the area that issued you the voucher for at least 12 months before your voucher can be ported somewhere else.
5. HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHER IN HAND
Once you’re issued a voucher, you can now start looking for housing. It is your job to find a unit and talk with landlords.
Most landlords are willing to accept a Section 8 voucher if your credit is good and if you have a clean criminal record.
HUD does give landlords the right to screen Section 8 tenants (just like they would screen any other tenants), and the landlords are within their rights to reject your rent application for bad credit, so make sure to check your credit report & score to ensure there are no errors, etc., because the last thing you want is a “surprise” in your credit report that brought your credit score down that you will find out about when you begin looking for housing!
There are no limits on the location of the unit, building type or any other features other than the fact that the rent for the unit must be within certain limits specified by the Housing Authority, and the fact that the property must meet a physical inspection that requires it to meet certain quality standards.
The Housing Choice Vouchers are portable, meaning that if you live in Atlanta, GA for example and move to Dallas, TX, you can take your voucher with you to Dallas and continue to receive Section 8 rental assistance in Dallas, etc. But again, you can only take your housing assistance with you to a new city AFTER you lived in the area that issued you a voucher for at least 12 months!