Frequently Asked Questions About Section 8 Housing

What is the Section 8 housing program?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a government housing assistance program that is commonly referred to as Section 8.

Using federal funds, the Section 8 program subsidizes the cost of rent in the private market for eligible households.

Landlords are paid directly with the housing subsidies so that very low-income families, the elderly and individuals with disabilities can afford to rent safe and sanitary housing.

What types of housing units can be rented using benefits from Section 8?

One of the biggest advantages to Section 8 housing assistance is that participants can choose a home that fits their needs.

As long as a home meets health and sanitary standards and stays within the rent limits set by the Public Housing Authority (PHA), it can be subsidized by Section 8 benefits.

This includes housing types such as duplexes, apartments, single-family homes and condominiums.

What is the Section 8 waiting list?

Unfortunately, the demand for housing assistance through Section 8 usually exceeds the amount of resources available for the program.

Due to the limited resources, eligible applicants will usually experience long waiting periods before receiving their benefits. In some cases, a PHA will close their waiting list once it grows too long.

In order to best tackle the housing needs of their communities, public housing agencies establish local preferences for selecting applicants from a waiting list.

Some PHAs will offer local preferences to families who are homeless or living in substandard housing.

Others may target families who are involuntarily displaces. Local PHAs have the authority to establish their own criteria for waiting list preferences.

Can I move and continue to receive Section 8 housing choice vouchers?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) understands that a family’s housing needs may change over time.

For example, a family’s size may change or household members may find job opportunities in other locations.

Whatever the reason may be, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is designed to allow families to be able to move without losing their benefits.

Where can I move to using benefits from the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

If a family lives in the jurisdiction of a Public Housing Authority when they applied for Section 8, they are eligible to choose a unit anywhere in the United States.

New housing voucher-holders who were not living in the jurisdiction of a PHA when they applied for assistance must rent a unit within the jurisdiction for at least the first 12 months of receiving Section 8 benefits.

Note: Households that wish to move into the jurisdiction of another Public Housing Authority will first need to consult with their current PHA about the steps they must take for moving.

What are my obligations as a tenant?

As a tenant who is renting a home using Section 8 housing benefits, there are some obligations and responsibilities that you have towards your landlord and rental unit.

For instance, you must agree to:

  • Update the Public Housing Authority regularly about any changes to your income or eligibility.
  • Pay your portion of the rent in a timely and consistent manner.
  • Allow the PHA to perform inspections on your housing unit whenever necessary.
  • Repair any damages to the unit caused by you or other household members.
  • Maintain the standard of the property.

Is there a rental amount limitation for Section 8 housing?

Local Public Housing Authorities are in charge of setting a rental amount limit in order to ensure that tenants are paying a rent amount that is aligned with the rent for non-Section 8 units in the surrounding area.

Typically, a PHA will deny a rental unit if the cost of renting the unit is greater than 40 percent of the tenant’s monthly income.

What are my landlord’s obligations?

Your landlord is required to provide families with decent, safe and sanitary housing at an affordable and reasonable price.

The landlord will be required to maintain a certain standard of housing quality as long as they receive payments from the Section 8 housing assistance program.

Your landlord is also required to provide you with all of the housing services they agreed to as a part of the lease they signed with you and their contract with the local Public Housing Authority.

How long am I required to stay in the housing unit that I am renting?

Generally, participants of the Section 8 housing program are required to stay in a rental unit for a minimum of one year.

Residents who would like to move to a new rental must inform their landlord in advance so that they can end the lease.

Leases will be automatically renewed if the tenants do no request to end them.

Am I required to report changes in my household’s size, address or income?

Yes, if there are any changes in your family related to their income, size, composition or address, you are required to update your local Public Housing Authority right away.

You can do so by visiting your local PHA in person, and in some areas you can report the changes by mail or over the phone.

In order to properly report the change, you will be required to provide supporting documentation for the changes.

What happens if my application for Section 8 benefits is denied?

Whenever an application for Section 8 benefits is denied, the PHA will issue a denial letter that will let you know the reasoning behind the decision.

If the denial was due to missing information or documents, you can simply provide the necessary items and resubmit your application.

Otherwise, you have the right to appeal the decision before the deadline specified on your denial notice.

How do I appeal a Housing Choice Voucher Program denial?

All applicants are given the opportunity to file an appeal if they are denied Section 8 assistance by their local Public Housing Authority.

During the appeal, applicants will meet with an individual who was actively involved in processing the application, but did not issue the denial decision.

During the appeal, applicants are required to submit all relevant evidence and documents to the hearing official. They will then review your appeal and make a final decision on your application.