Do I Qualify for Section 8 Housing

Unlike some forms of government assistance, Section 8 is not considered an entitlement. That means that not every person qualifying to receive a housing voucher is guaranteed to get one. In fact, recent estimates suggest that only one in four families eligible for aid ever receive it. Those seeking vouchers often must wait months or even years along with others in a long list of needy applicants. If you think that you may be eligible for low-income housing, it is important to understand how Section 8 works so that you can get the process started as soon as possible.

The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency uses a set of four criteria to determine eligibility: income level, household size, eviction history and citizenship status.


Income Level Qualification

The HUD sets caps each year based on regional median income numbers divided into three levels:

  • Extremely Low Income: 30 percent of median
  • Very Low Income: 50 percent of median
  • Low Income: 80 percent of median


What is Considered a Household?

The HUD also sets guidelines about which kinds of living situations meet the definition of family. Generally speaking, a "family" is considered an individual or group with or without children. This may include individuals over age 62, people with disabilities, or those who have been displaced by natural disaster or government action.

The number of individuals who are part of the household is important for determining which income bracket families belong in. A household of one may have an extremely low income level at $12,000 while a family of eight is regarded as extremely low income at $38,000. You should keep in mind that many sources are considered when calculating total income, including:

  • Overtime, tips and commission
  • Pensions or retirement funds
  • Dividends and interest from assets
  • Child support, alimony
  • Unemployment, disability, worker's compensation
  • Social security, welfare

Establishing Citizenship

Section 8 low-income assistance is available for American citizens and those with eligible immigrant status. In order to receive vouchers, the Public Housing Authority asks citizens to sign a declaration affirming that all members of the household have citizen status. Status may need to be further verified by producing a U.S. passport, birth certificate, social security card or other documents. Eligible immigrants must also sign a declaration of status, and must produce and verify Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) information.


Eviction History

In addition to the above considerations, the PHA will not issue Section 8 vouchers to individuals who:

  • Have been convicted of creating methamphetamine in an assisted housing project.
  • Have been evicted for a drug-related crime within the three years prior to applying.


How it Works

Those who receive vouchers can use them toward housing of their choice, providing that it complies with the local Public Housing Authority's health and safety codes. However, the property owner must also agree to work with the Section 8 program. If such an agreement is established, the housing authority will pay an agreed portion of the rent directly to the landlord. Any part of the monthly rent not covered by the voucher must be paid for by the tenant.

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