Section 8 Housing Assistance Program Explained

by Amos Z

With the housing market constantly in a state of chaos, some individuals and families in the US have found themselves stuck in limbo when it comes to finding a permanent, and sometimes even a temporary residence.

Rent prices are higher than they’ve been in years, and buying a property is practically impossible for low-income individuals, and more recently, even middle-class Americans have had a tough time finding their first home.

However, the federal government is well aware of this issue, and they’ve developed a number of programs to deal with the housing crisis currently enveloping the entirety of the continental US, and the Section 8 housing assistance program is one of the more prominent ones.

Keep reading to learn more about how Section 8 housing works, what the eligibility requirements are, and how you can maximize your chances of receiving assistance if it’s even applicable to you.

How does it work?

Also referred to as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 housing assistance comes in the form of vouchers, which the recipients can then use to cover their rent expenses, although, in certain conditions, these vouchers can be used to pay for a portion of a home’s asking price.

These vouchers are given out based on the applicant’s net income, with the program being administered by the Public Housing Agencies in your area, with the main benefit being that you’re given a lot more freedom in terms of what housing option you’ll settle for, unlike the majority of other programs out there.

Naturally, not every landlord is participating in the program, although their numbers are gradually increasing due to the tax incentives the government offers to those that accept Section 8 vouchers as a form of payment.

Do your research first and find the housing option that you believe will fit all your needs before diving headfirst into this government assistance program.

The application process

While it may sound simple on paper, the application for Section 8 assistance is everything but, and it’s not uncommon for those that are approved to be placed on waiting lists where they’ll spend the next 1-2 years.

In order to offset some of the difficulties applicants may be experiencing during this time, Section 8 can offer applicants access to project-based vouchers, which can give them a temporary solution to their lack of housing.

The main thing that is often overlooked is the fact that these vouchers won’t necessarily cover the entire rent, but rather, only a portion of it, in a way that allows the individual/family to only spend 20% of their income on housing costs.

This also implies following certain rules put in place by the program and the landlord, and should any of them be broken, the applicant may no longer be eligible for government assistance.


A number of factors will determine your eligibility for Section 8 housing assistance, with the most notable one being your own, or your family’s net income.

Generally, it has to be at or below a certain percentage of the federal poverty guidelines, with the specifics being defined by your local Public Housing Association.

Applicants with a greater number of members in their household are pushed to the front of the queue when accepted into the program, although all of them will have to either be citizens of the US or at least have an eligible immigration status.

Undocumented immigrants are in no way eligible for voucher assistance and will have to refer themselves to other forms of government assistance in order to find a housing solution.

Finally, if you’ve previously been evicted from public housing or another Section 8 program, the PHA will carefully examine your case and determine whether it’ll affect your current application.

How to apply

Every journey begins with the first step, and yours will be contacting the local PHA in order to verify their location and confirm that you meet all the requirements for the program.

Once this is done, you can begin gathering all the necessary documentation for the application process, which includes documents pertaining to your identity as well as those that can be used to confirm your income levels and citizenship status.

In general, your income levels shouldn’t be above 50% of the federal poverty guidelines, although this can vary based on the state you’re applying in.

Usually, a PHA will have preferences for certain applicants, meaning that those with qualifying disabilities and the elderly will likely be given priority when receiving assistance.

Bottom line

Section 8 housing assistance is one of the most effective programs out there, and due to the amount of freedom it has to offer, it’s a preference for most low-income Americans struggling to find a home.

That being said, it does come with its drawbacks, the most notable one being the incredibly lengthy wait times, which can last for up to 2 years if given the right circumstances.

Carefully examine what the program has to offer and decide whether the wait is worth it for you and your loved ones.

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