How to Apply for Housing Assistance?

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How to Apply for Housing Assistance?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, often called Section 8 housing, helps low-income families locate and pay for housing accommodations. Each state’s public housing authorities (PHA) administer the program by accepting applications, determining eligibility, and distributing the benefits. Before you apply for Section 8 housing, you should ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements.

Find your local public housing authority here

Requirements for Obtaining Section 8 Vouchers

There are two types of Section 8 assistance: project-based assistance and the housing choice voucher program. Project-based assistance gives rental assistance to individuals as long as they stay within a specified project-based property. The family doesn’t continue to receive financial assistance if they move out of the property. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is more flexible.

Recipients receive vouchers to pay for a percentage of the rent they incur as a family. The eligibility for receiving Section 8 housing vouchers is mainly based on the applicant’s income and citizenship status. You can apply for the program if you meet these basic eligibility requirements. Applying is easy as long as you submit a completed application and all the required supporting documents. After successfully applying for benefits, your state’s Housing Choice Program will pay a portion of your rent to your landlord directly, and you will pay the remaining portion of your rent.

Citizenship Status

Eligibility for Section 8 housing is limited to U.S. citizens. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may be entitled to benefits if you meet specific immigrant categories. When you apply for Section 8 housing, every person in your household must sign a certification form stating that you are one of the following:

  • A U.S. citizen, or
  • An eligible alien, or
  • Choosing not to claim eligibility status

Your PHA could request that you provide additional documentation proving your and your family’s citizenship statuses, such as your passport or Social Security card. If you have a family member who is not a U.S. citizen, you can still apply for benefits. However, assistance will be based on the number of eligible family members in the household.

Income Limits

There are three tiers of income limits when applying for benefits. Extremely low income means you make 30% of your area’s median income. Very low income means you make 50% of the area’s median income level. Finally, moderately low income means you earn 80% or higher of the area’s median income level. These income limits take into account where you live. The limits are higher for higher-income areas. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has an online tool that you can use to check whether your income is below the income limit in your area.

Family Status

Section 8 recipients must meet HUD’s definition of a family, which is an individual or group that meets any of these conditions:

  • Have children
  • Have one family member who is disabled
  • Have one family member age 62 or older
  • Has been displaced from their home for an eligible reason
  • Lived with people receiving Section 8 but lives alone after other family members who have moved out

You do not need to be married or have children to qualify for Section 8 benefits.

Applying for Housing Assistance

Step 1: Complete the Application

The first step in applying for benefits is to contact your local Public Housing Authority. They can tell you whether they are accepting new applicants. They can provide information about the application process and the documents you will need to apply. Depending on your location, you may be able to apply in person, online, or by mail. The next step is to fill out your application for housing-choice vouchers used by your PHA. The information requested from applicants can vary, but generally, applicants are required to provide the following information:

  • Name and address information for the head of your household
  • The name and names of all people who live in your household
  • Social Security numbers, birth dates, places of birth, and the genders of everyone living in the household
  • Your military or veteran status
  • Your preferred bedroom size
  • Your current homelessness status
  • Residency status
  • Criminal history
  • Disability status
  • Race, ethnicity, and native language
  • Names of your previous landlords
  • Your current employer’s name and contact information

Be as accurate and thorough as possible when you complete your application, whether you are submitting it in person, by mail, or online.

Step 2: Submit Your Supporting Documents

Your PHA may ask you to provide supporting documentation, which may include the following:

  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Bank account statements
  • Proof of citizenship (i.e., passports, birth certificates)
  • Copies of government-issued IDs for every member of the household
  • Copies of your current rental agreement

If your contact from the PHA reaches out to you and asks for more information, it’s crucial that you respond quickly. Failure to respond could result in your application being delayed or potentially stopped.

Step 3: Join the Waiting List

Once you have submitted your application and all supporting documentation, your application will be accepted or rejected. You will likely be on a waiting list if your application is accepted. The waiting list includes all individuals and families who have already been approved for housing-choice vouchers.

Once a home that meets your criteria becomes available for rent, you will be taken off the waiting list, and your landlord will begin receiving vouchers directly from PHA. PHA can close its waiting list to new applicants when there are not enough resources to pay for the housing benefits for new applications. Keep in mind that in some cases, it can take applicants years to rise to the top of the pool for Section 8 vouchers. Some states that provide Section 8 vouchers offer lottery drawings for applicants on the waiting list. These lotteries are open to applicants who are already on the waiting list.

Remember, Getting Section 8 Vouchers Can Take Time

If you are considering applying for Section 8 vouchers, you should ensure you meet the eligibility criteria. If you meet the criteria, you should apply as soon as possible. As mentioned above, the waiting lists can be extremely long. You may want to ask the PHA officer managing your case about other possibilities for obtaining rental assistance if you are not eligible for a housing-choice voucher.

Alan Reed

Alan Reed

Alan is a real estate investor based in Northeast Pennsylvania with experience renovating and operating everything from single-family rentals to strip malls and storage facilities.

January 14, 2023 (Updated April 22, 2024)