What Factors Are Important for Section 8 Eligibility

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Families are feeling the effects of the rising costs of rent, leaving some spending more than they can afford on housing expenses. Every household has an affordable rent rate based on their income level. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that you should not spend more than 30% of your gross income on housing costs. If you are having a hard time making your rent each month, you might benefit from Section 8 provided by the HUD. Read on to learn what factors are important for Section 8 eligibility!

Section 8 Housing Explained

Section 8 is a housing assistance program offered by the federal government. Funded by the HUD, the program has been operating since 1974. However, local public housing agencies (PHAs) are responsible for operating and administering the program. The formal name for this program is actually the Housing Choice Voucher program.

With this program, recipients find a rental on the private market that passes specific housing quality standards (HQS). The key requirements are based on housing quality, performance, and acceptability criteria to meet the performance requirements. Finally, the purpose of Section 8 is to help low-income people and families with housing expenses through vouchers. Recipients don’t pay their rent vouchers directly to their landlord. Instead, the PHA handles that.

How Well Does the Housing Choice Voucher Program Help People?

Recipients of the HCV program aren’t expected to pay more than 30% of their income towards rent costs. The reduced cost results in their budget opening up for other expenses like food, clothes, transportation, and health care. Households that pay a higher portion of their income on rent cannot spend as much on other needs. In addition to that, research supports that the HCV program is effective in reducing homelessness as well as other hardships.

If HCV recipients want to save the most, they need to be mindful of the cost of rent when choosing a rental to live in. This is because the cost shouldn’t be greater than the payment standard set by the program. If this happens, by law, the recipients are expected to handle rent expenses that are up to 40% of their monthly income.

The HCV Program Eligibility Requirements 

With the popularity of Section 8, there are many families seeking support. For this reason, approved applicants can expect to be placed on a waiting list. Unfortunately, the amount of support the program can provide at one time is limited.

If you are interested in applying to the program, the exact requirements to receive benefits depend on where you live. However, there are four main qualifications that Section 8 considers when reviewing applicants. Aside from some exceptions, you must meet all of the following requirements. They are:

  • Income Level
  • Household Status
  • Citizenship Status
  • Previous Rental and Eviction History

Income Level

To qualify for Section 8, your income should not be greater than 50% of your area’s median income (AMI). You can reach out to your local PHA to find out what the income requirements are in your area! The median income is different depending on where you live. When completing a Section 8 application, there are types of income applicants should disclose. Your local PHA may ask you to present documents that confirm any income you claimed on your application. These can include a few different types of documentation, such as bank statements or pay stubs.

PHAs are allowed to select applicants from the waiting list as they see fit. Certain applicants may take priority over others. The law states that a minimum of 75% of HCV recipients must make an income that is lower than 30% of their local area’s median income (AMI). This number will vary between different places. When PHAs are selecting applicants from the waiting list, families whose circumstances fall under one of the following categories may be prioritized:

  • Experiencing homelessness
  • Are paying more than 50% of their income on rent
  • Unwillingly displaced
  • Currently living in poor-quality conditions

Household Status

Your household status refers to the family that lives with you. The HUD defines what “family” means to the program. However, your local PHA is allowed to determine its own definition. This means it will vary depending on where you live. Any change in household status should be reported to the PHA.

The following rules can be used as guidance for what makes a family eligible:

  • There are either children or no children in the household
  • One family member with a disability in the household
  • One person aged 62 or older in the household
  • Unwillingly displaced for an eligible reason

Reaching out to your local PHA is the best way to determine if your family might qualify. However, in order to be eligible for assistance, you must meet at least one of the above requirements.

Citizenship Status

The HCV program accepts recipients who are U.S. Citizens or have an eligible immigration status. Families, where not everyone is of eligible status, can still receive vouchers. However, it is important to note that the amount of benefits is based on how many members of the household have eligible status. In order to verify your status, your local PHA may ask for documents such as:

  • U.S. Passport
  • Resident Alien Card
  • Social Security Card
  • Registration Card

In addition to supporting documents, every family member is required to sign a certification form. The purpose of the form is further to verify the citizenship status of each family member.

Previous Rental and Eviction History

Rental history is important to PHAs because they want to ensure that recipients are going to be good tenants. Applicants can be denied receiving benefits based on their past experience with rentals. One reason applicants can be rejected is if they have been previously evicted for a drug-related incident or other criminal activity. Additionally, applicants can be automatically rejected if they have ever been found guilty of producing methamphetamines in government housing. All in all, recipients typically need to have a rental history without red flags.

Bottom Line

The Housing Choice Voucher program or Section 8 is effective for lowering homelessness rates and overall helping people get back on their feet. This rent assistance program offers vouchers to qualifying recipients that go towards a portion of their rent. Recipients of Section 8 shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing expenses, which allows for additional freedom in their budget to get ahead in other areas.

The exact qualifications required to receive help through this program are different depending on where you live. However, you can expect that your local PHA will be considering your income, family, and citizenship status to determine if you qualify. In addition, your eviction history is considered. Recipients of the HCV program can live in a rental property of their choice, as long as it meets the PHA’s standards.

If you are struggling to make ends meet, you may have more help than you think! Contact your local PHA to find out if you might be eligible for assistance with Section 8.

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