Rent rates have soared over the last several years. As a result, there is a major shortage of affordable housing availability in the U.S. With millions of households feeling the effects of increased rent rates, understanding your options is essential. For more than 40 years, the Housing Choice Voucher Program has been providing families in need with a safe place to live at an affordable rate.
Understanding the Housing Choice Voucher Program
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, helps low-income families get access to safe and affordable housing. Recipients of Section 8 aren’t limited to public housing. Instead, they can find their own rental property on the private market. This allows households the freedom and flexibility to live in desirable areas at an affordable cost to them. Housing insecurity is very common and poses a large issue in the U.S. currently. Section 8 helps combat this issue.
How the Voucher System Works
Understanding the Housing Choice Voucher Program can be a beneficial option for those seeking to improve their living situation. Applicants found eligible for Section 8 receive a voucher that helps cover part of their monthly rent payment. When finding a property to live in, one crucial aspect is that the landlord must accept vouchers. Section 8 encourages landlords to accept vouchers through tax incentives. In addition to that, tax incentives can also benefit developers. These incentives can help get developers the proper financing to build more housing units. With this, the program aims to further combat the current affordable housing crisis.
If you think you can benefit from Section 8, a good first step is to get in contact with your local Public Housing Authority (PHA). PHAs handle both applicants and current recipients. This is because they are responsible for operating and administering the program. Meanwhile, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds this program.
The biggest benefit of vouchers may be the freedom of choice that recipients get. Certain households may not be able to afford to live in areas with more opportunity. This is why vouchers can provide such assistance. Recipients may be able to move to an area with better schools, more job options, and lower crime rates. Research supports that living in more desirable neighborhoods can have a positive effect on both adults and children.
How Much Are Vouchers Worth?
When it comes to how much a voucher is worth, it really depends on your personal situation. Factors such as income level and household status influence the amount that you can get. Furthermore, the rental market of the area that you are going to live in impacts how much rent your voucher can cover. Vouchers only cover a portion of the rent. After that, the tenant is responsible for paying the rest. Generally, Section 8 recipients are expected to contribute around 30% of their gross monthly income towards rent. Meanwhile, the program covers the remaining amount up to a specific payment standard set by PHAs.
The Downfalls and Benefits of Section 8
By providing rental assistance, this program ensures access to safe and decent housing options for low-income families. In addition to that, recipients are empowered by offering greater flexibility in choosing where they live. However, there are not many opportunities in life that don’t have any cons to consider.
Downfalls of Section 8
Below are a few of the downfalls of Section 8:
- Confusing application process: The application process for Section 8 can be time-consuming and confusing to navigate.
- Limited funding: Unfortunately there are many more households in need of assistance than Section 8 can provide at one time. For this reason, approved applicants typically experience long wait periods before receiving a voucher.
- Limited housing availability: We mentioned previously that landlords are incentivized to accept vouchers. However, they are not required to! Not all landlords are willing to take them, resulting in limited properties for recipients to choose from.
Benefits of Section 8
Even though these downfalls are important to keep in mind, you may find that the benefits outweigh them. Below are some of the advantages of Section 8:
- Improved living conditions: A major advantage is that it allows low-income households to secure safe and decent homes. The program requires that the properties are kept according to strict quality standards set by local PHAs.
- Access to better educational and employment opportunities: Moving into higher-opportunity neighborhoods often means gaining access to better educational resources. In addition to that, there is increased access to stable job opportunities and lower crime rates in these more desirable areas.
- Incentives for developers: The voucher system creates incentives for property developers. This arrangement encourages builders to construct more affordable housing units, which ultimately benefit the entire neighborhood.
- Flexibility in choosing where to live: Traditional public housing programs assign families to specific units. However, Section 8 allows recipients to choose their own rental. This flexibility enables them to select homes closer to job opportunities, schools, and other essentials.
What if You Want to Transition Towards Homeownership?
The Homeownership Voucher Program offers eligible voucher holders an option that can help them look forward to homeownership instead of renting. This program allows them to use their rental assistance towards purchasing a home. For example, the program can help pay for mortgage payments, property taxes, and other costs. Unfortunately, this program isn’t available everywhere. However, those that can benefit may see results with long-term stability and investment growth possibilities.
To qualify for the Homeownership program, there are specific requirements that need to be met. To start, voucher holders need to attend a course that covers topics that potential homeowners should stay informed about. Topics such as credit repair, budgeting, and what’s involved in buying a home are covered. Once that’s taken care of, the program takes a look into the recipient’s financial records. Information like income, rental history, and credit score are taken into consideration.
Overall, the Housing Choice Voucher Program can be effective in helping low-income households access safe and affordable housing. Possibly one of the greatest advantages to benefiting from Section 8 is the freedom and flexibility that recipients get to experience. This freedom comes from their ability to choose where they want to live since recipients are not limited to public housing units. Low-income households may get the chance to live in higher-opportunity neighborhoods with the assistance from Section 8. Whereas, prior to receiving a voucher, they may not have been able to afford to. Studies support that living in safer communities can have a positive impact on both educational and employment opportunities.
While there are great benefits to Section 8, there are also some downfalls. For example, approved applicants typically experience long waiting periods. Some households may wait months to even years before it’s their turn to receive a voucher. Despite that, the advantages of Section 8 may certainly outweigh the challenges. You can get more information on receiving a voucher by contacting your local PHA!