Understanding What Section 8 is Really All About

Many people have strong misconceptions about Section 8 housing and the residents that live there. A common notion is that Section 8 is a synonym for “projects,” and for many people “projects” bring to mind crime and drugs. Most Section 8 housing doesn’t fit that description. In reality, describing houses as “Section 8” doesn’t even make sense. “Section 8 residents” is more apt.

Here’s a brief overview of Section 8.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees all Section 8 housing programs. The purpose of the program is to keep low-income people from living in squalor. With assistance, these families and individuals can find safe and livable homes.



All Section 8 program participants initially receive their assistance through the form of a voucher. That voucher serves as a credit which can be applied towards the upfront rent due to a unit’s owner.

Once a tenant receives a voucher, he or she may venture out into an area which seems desirable. After a tenant finds a unit he or she likes, a HUD agent inspects the unit. If it is deemed to be satisfactory and up to the quality standards of the department, the tenant may move in. Each following month, HUD makes a payment directly to the landlord.

Few, if any, Section 8 beneficiaries have the entirety of their monthly rent subsidized by the government. At least 30-40% of the household’s total monthly income must be committed to living expenses. The U.S. Census Bureau recommends spending no more than 30-40% of household income on living expenses. Section 8 assistance helps in so much as it gets a household’s rent expenses under control, allowing the residents to pay other bills and save for their futures.



Section 8 housing is more likely to be utilized in poorer neighborhoods than wealthy ones. That does not mean, however, that rental properties in one community or another are automatically designated as Section 8 units. Likewise, no communities may explicitly disallow tenants receiving Section 8 housing assistance from residing there.

In the end, Section 8 truly is not a program for properties. It is a program for tenants. A tenant may utilize Section 8 benefits to get into any unit, assuming the landlord is willing to accept the government subsidy.