Important Section 8 Eligibility Criteria

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One of the most challenging costs that people find trouble with is housing. Housing expenses are a larger issue for Americans than most people understand. For instance, per month, an average apartment costs $1,659. People with limited income can find this hard to afford. If someone earns $11 per hour and works 40-hour work weeks, then they will only be earning $1,760 per month before taxes.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has their own definition on what it means to have affordable housing. According to their definition, affordable housing means that a household’s housing costs should not be more than 30% of their gross income per month. With the example mentioned above, if a family only earns $1,760,  they should only spend $528 per month on housing to represent affordable housing. Obviously, this amount is much lower than the cost of a typical apartment that sits at $1,659 per month.

There are support options out there to help with your housing costs. One support option that can support your housing situation is the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as the Section 8 program.

What You Should Know About Getting Section 8 Assistance

To avoid confusion, the Housing Choice Voucher Program and the Section 8 program are the same support option. Since 1974, the HUD has been responsible for offering support through the Section 8 Program for families with limited income. Even though Section 8 is a federal program, since the HUD funds them, public housing agencies (PHAs) manage the program at a local level.

The program offers assistance with housing costs through housing choice vouchers. As a recipient, you can move into a home where the landlord accepts vouchers to pay for housing costs. Once you and your family move into the home, the local PHA is responsible to pay the landlord on your behalf to partially pay for rent. If there is any remaining amount, you are in charge of paying for it. You should keep in mind that not all properties are available. While the properties need to accept these vouchers, the properties need to meet housing quality standards (HQS). Properties need to meet 13 requirements of these HQS regulations.

Are There Actual Benefits from the Section 8 Program

Yes, research verifies that the Section 8 program helps in decreasing homelessness and helping people with other struggles. When families spend more than 30% of their monthly gross earnings on housing costs, they are considered cost-burdened. This means that they could find it harder to manage other necessary costs such as food, clothes, healthcare, and so on.

Usually, the housing vouchers allow recipients to spend 30% or less of their income on housing costs, which means that they could reach affordable housing. It’s important to be mindful of the fact that the property that families choose should not have a rent that is higher than 40% of the family’s adjusted income per month. This is only in the case that the unit costs more than the payment standard by law.

Qualifying for Section 8: Who Can?

You should remember that each state has its own version of the Section 8 program. This means that eligibility requirements could be different from one state to another. There are four general aspects that local PHAs will focus on when they determine whether someone qualifies or not. These four aspects include:

  • Level of Income
  • Status of Your Citizenship
  • The Size of Your Family
  • Eviction Background

For applicants to be eligible, they need to meet all requirements. Exceptions are possible to some of these requirements, but this depends on the area! If the program approves, recipients will usually get waitlisted. This is because there is high demand for assistance but there is not enough support to help everyone out.

Level of Income

Those who need the most assistance in housing are the target audience of the Section 8 program. That is why the level of income serves as an important factor when it comes to qualifying for this opportunity. In order to benefit from this program, applicants must be low-income. As a good rule of thumb, typically applicants should not earn over 50% of their area’s median income (AMI). The different income sources you should mention in your application include the following:

  • Disability income
  • Employment wages
  • Insurance payments
  • Military pay
  • Overtime income
  • Alimony
  • Bonuses and/or tips
  • Child support
  • Death benefits
  • Social Security payments and unemployment benefits
  • Unemployment payments

Depending on your local PHA, the particular documents you should present to provide evidence of your income will vary. Other than the general focus on applicants with limited income, there is a special interest in recipients that earn no more than 30% of the local AMI. A minimum of 75% of people with HCV should fall within this level of income by law. Additionally, there might be a special focus for people who are dealing with specific struggles. While the specific struggles vary based on the local PHA, some common examples that the program focuses on are:

  • Families that spend more than 50% of their earnings on rent
  • Homeless people or families that are involuntarily displaced
  • Families and individuals that live in uninhabitable conditions

Status of Your Citizenship

Unfortunately, not anyone will be eligible for Section 8, despite that they may have limited income. Since it is a federally-funded program, only people with qualifying citizenship status can be eligible. This is why applicants are required to sign a certification form while they are applying. This includes family members, too! The certification form will declare the citizenship status of the family members. Local PHAs might need more documents from applicants like:

  • Social Security cards
  • Passports from the United States
  • Resident alien cards and registration cards

Fortunately, not all of your family needs to have eligible statuses of citizenship. If you have family members with ineligible citizenship statuses, you are not completely disqualified from receiving Section 8 assistance. The support will only be determined by the number of qualifying individuals.

The Size of Your Family

A family needs to meet certain requirements to qualify. Even though the HUD has a clear definition of family, local PHAs also have the right to create their own meaning of family. To know more about your local PHA’s definition of “family” you should contact them directly. On the other hand, there are general outlines that households need to meet:

  • Your household needs to have children or not.
  • There needs to be at least one individual in the household who is older than 62 years old or has a disability.
  • Your household must have been involuntarily displaced for qualifying causes.

It is important for you to know that families are not required to meet all of the requirements–these are all just general outlines. If your family changes in size in any way, including a person passing away or the birth of a child, you should let your local PHA know immediately.

Eviction Background

The final factor that affects Section 8 eligibility is your background of eviction. It is an important aspect because it notifies your PHA whether you are reliable or not as a tenant. Usually, families will need to have a decent rental background to qualify. For instance, the program can automatically disqualify applicants in the case that you have a background of eviction because of drug-related activity or other forms of criminal actions.

The Final Verdict

If you want to obtain affordable housing, Section 8 might be suitable. This is a housing support option that offers eligible recipients housing vouchers that they can use to pay for rent. Usually, when you take part in the program, you will only spend 30% or less of your monthly income. It’s important to remember that only eligible properties will be available for recipients to move into. This includes accepting the vouchers as a form of payment and passing HQS that the local PHA sets. Specific eligibility conditions can differ from one state to another, but there are usually four aspects that the program focuses on. These four aspects are:

  • Level of Income
  • Status of Your Citizenship
  • The Size of Your Family
  • Eviction Background

If you are interested in applying for this program, you should contact your local PHA. They will offer as much information as you need and guide you with your application.

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