Several federal programs are available to help low-income families receive the financial support they need.
In particular, housing assistance is available through programs like Section 8, which help qualified families secure safe and sanitary homes. This is a nation-wide program overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Though it is federally funded, applicants apply to receive housing choice vouchers from this program through a local public housing authority (PHA).
To qualify, applicants must meet certain requirements, including income limits. This means the household’s gross annual income is a certain percentage lower than the local median income, which may fluctuate from year to year.
After they are deemed eligible, families are placed on a waiting list until they receive their housing choice voucher. Then, they can apply the voucher towards a rental property as long as it meets the program’s health standards. Learn more about the Section 8 application process below.
When can I apply for Section 8?
PHAs are located throughout the U.S., and you can choose to apply at any of them even if you do not currently live in the jurisdiction. It is important to note that every PHA is responsible for running its own operations. This includes keeping track of the local waiting list. When this list gets too long, PHA’s often close the registration window for a certain period in order to keep the list manageable.
Therefore, you can only apply when your local registration window is open. Make sure to verify whether or not your PHA is currently accepting applicants before you begin the application process. Alternately, you may consider applying to more than one PHA if you are willing to move to the jurisdiction.
Learn About Section 8 Application Requirements
If you believe you meet the necessary eligibility requirements and registration is open, you can begin your application for the Section 8 program. Depending on the state you live in, there may be more than one way to submit your documents. For example, Florida is one of many states that allows applicants to apply online in order to avoid waiting in long lines at the nearest PHA.
Regardless of the application method you choose, there is a variety of information you must include on your application. In addition to general information like address and family size, you must provide details on each member of your household, such as his or her:
- Date of birth.
- Social Security Number.
- Citizenship status.
- Finances, such as income and assets.
- Physical status, including if he or she is elderly, pregnant or has a disability.
Along with your application, you must provide copies of documents that verify the above information. In order to ensure that your eligibility is properly assessed, all of the information you provide must be as accurate as possible.
If you need to make a change for any reason, you are required to submit an official information change form to the PHA as soon as possible. Once your application is reviewed and approved, the PHA places you on the waiting list.
Note: Eligibility for the program is based on your circumstances once you reach the top of the waiting list, not just when you initially apply. Since this process is often lengthy, it is important to keep your information up-to-date while you are on the waiting list.
How to Apply for Section 8 Housing
When you are ready to apply for the Section 8 program, there are a few different steps to follow. Most importantly, you must locate your nearest PHA and make sure that it is currently accepting applications. Then, you must find out the particular application method for that PHA. This can be any of the following methods:
- Online: You may have the option to submit your application through the PHA’s online portal. Often, this means you can view your waiting list number online as well.
- In-person: Some PHA’s require you to submit an application in person. This may require you to pick up the application form at the PHA office as well.
- By mail:Occasionally, PHAs may accept applications by mail, especially if you do not currently live in the area.
Once your application is received and approved, you are assigned a waiting list number. Keep in mind that even this part of the process can take several months depending on the amount of applications the PHA receives at the time.
It is important to ensure that your address is up-to-date on your application, because the PHA will send you an appointment letter once you reach the top of the waiting list. If you do not respond, you face removal from the waiting list.
In addition, PHA’s periodically mail notices to verify whether or not you are still interested in receiving assistance. This is done to purge the waitlist and open up spots for other families. Failure to respond to these messages can also result in your removal from the list.
The appointment notice will outline a date and time for your interview, and you must attend in order to secure your spot in the program. The Section 8 interview is the time when a PHA worker will verify your eligibility for the program. During your interview you may be asked to provide additional supporting documents, which can include:
- Proof of your identity.
- Contact information from your previous landlords.
- Medical paperwork and contact information for your doctor.
- Medicare or Medicaid cards.
- Proof of childcare expenses.
Once your eligibility is confirmed, you complete a voucher briefing. This means that a PHA worker will explain how the voucher program works to ensure that you understand the process and your responsibilities within it. Then you will receive your housing choice voucher and can begin your search for a suitable rental property.
You are usually responsible for coming to an agreement with the landlord regarding your housing choice voucher and rent amount, as well as the utilities. Once an agreement is reached, the PHA must inspect the property before you can move in.