Finding Section 8 Apartments

By: Abdullah Haroon

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Not all apartments are affordable, especially for the population earning below the average median income. In an effort to help close the housing gap and ensure that there are affordable living options for the lowest-earning of the population, the Federal government has programs to assist. One of those programs is known as Section 8.

What is a Section 8 Apartment?

President Lyndon B. Johnson initiated a federal program to provide relief for people in the lower-income bracket, which is known as section 8. It is also known as the Federal Housing Choice Vouchers Program. It is managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Nearly two million people benefit from this program, which aims to help the elderly, disabled, and those living below the poverty line. The most attractive feature of section 8 is that apartments categorized as such are not cheap or of bad quality. Instead, most of them are new developments.

What is a Section 8 Apartment?

Families must qualify for section 8 apartments, and not all apartments accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

Eligibility is determined by the local Public Housing Authority (PHA) who gives vouchers to those who qualify. A voucher is a document that outlines what the person can afford as well as the actual cost of the rent.

Tenants with vouchers have to contact landlords or property managers to find an apartment. PHA does not assist with apartment locating–they only provide vouchers that meet their criteria.

The tenant has to pay a certain portion of the rent (usually 30%) while the rest is paid by the federal government.

Finding Section 8 Apartments

Finding a Section 8 Apartment:

As it is a federal program and it is available in all the states, there are no single qualifying criteria for Section 8, nor are there set criteria for how people are chosen for this program. However, income eligibility is one thing that is considered.

Generally, 75% of available Section 8 apartments are allotted to families who earn 30% of the median income. And, if that income exceeds 50% of the local median income, the family doesn’t qualify for the program. Other factors that are considered for eligibility are:

  • Previous Rental History: the potential tenant can’t have any record of eviction;
  • Citizenship Status: the potential tenant must be a US national or be of eligible immigrant status;
  • Criminal Record: the potential tenant can’t have any record of drug abuse.

Applying for Section 8:

Those who feel they are eligible and interested in applying should visit their local PHA office. They’ll determine whether you qualify or not based on your family size and income level. PHA will also consider the local rental rates for available apartments.

Apartments that accept vouchers can be searched anywhere in the US. The program even allows mobility in case of job relocation. Remember, if the rental rates tend to be higher than what is calculated by the department, the tenant has to pay the additional rent.Applying for Section 8

Make sure you bring in the following documents when you visit the local PHA office:

  • Evidence of your annual income such as a payslip; and
  • Documents showing the members of your immediate family.

Once the documents are submitted, the agency will review them and, upon verification, your name will be placed on the waiting list for a housing voucher.

Be Patient:

Local authorities review the Section 8 voucher waiting list. There are plenty of people who apply for Section 8 apartments, so there is no guarantee whether or not you will get approval even if you meet the qualifying criteria.

Once you have gone through the application process, which is likely to take months, make sure your name is on the waiting list.
If you get accepted for the voucher, there are few things that you need to know and do:

  • Search for the apartment where the Section 8 voucher is accepted;
  • Meet the landlord and forward your rental application;
  • Your landlord may still conduct screening activities such as reviewing your credit score or asking for a reference letter;
  • After the landlord’s approval, the property will be inspected by the local PHA agency;
  • After you get the go-ahead, the local PHA will start covering the remaining portion of rent.