A Guide for Determining Section 8 Eligibility
It is a struggle for many American families to pay their rent or their mortgage. Many spend up to 50 percent of their annual income on housing. As a result, they lack the resources needed to cover other expenses. Understanding the challenge, the government has created programs to help individuals who need assistance stay in a safe yet secure home. Unfortunately, many who qualify for this help do not realize that it exists. You may be able to improve your family's quality-of-life by knowing your options and the procedures for getting assistance.
HUD, also known as the Housing and Urban Development Department, is the government institution offering Section 8 vouchers. Working in conjunction with local agencies that provide public housing, applicants are screened, properties are reviewed, funds are distributed, and contracts are closed. Contact the local (PHA) Public Housing Authority for forms and requirements for applying for Section 8 vouchers.
Individuals using Section 8 vouchers are given funding for private residences. You may be limited to a particular type of building or a particular jurisdiction. Housing options range from single-family homes, apartments, and may include town-homes. In most cases, Section 8 vouchers are used to offset rent prices. However, in some instances these vouchers can be applied toward mortgage payments as well.
Eligibility is based on two things, the size of your household and your family's income.
A household is defined by HUD as one person or a group of people. The group could consist of the following:
- A household that has children or that does not have children. Children would include those who have temporarily been placed in a foster home, so they are currently away from the home.
- One or two people who are 62 years of age or older who live together. A live-in aid can be included in this number.
- One or more disabled individuals. A disabled individual may also have a live-in aid.
The larger your household, the larger your income can be, and you still may be eligible.
When determining a family's income, HUD looks at the total annual gross income and then compares it to the median income in the area. A family earning 30 percent or less of the median income is classified by HUD as being extremely low income. A family that has between 30-50 percent of the median income is qualified as being low income. This distinction is important since the federal government requires three quarters of Section 8 funds go to individuals who are extremely low income. This means that those with an extremely low income have a better chance to get approved.
As an example, a family living in an area with a median income of $67,000, has four children, and an income of under $20,000 is considered to be extremely low income. Conversely, a family that makes $33,000 in the same area would be considered low income.
The local PHA will be able to help you identify the income limit so you know what benefits you are eligible for.
To qualify, you must be a US citizen or have an eligible immigrant status. Your criminal record must be clean and sexual offenders will not be accepted. All information collected by the Public Housing Authority will be verified with local agencies, banks, and employers.
Those looking for a mortgage subsidy must have an income of at least $10,300 annually and have worked at their current job for at least one year.
Local Preference Standards
Local public housing authorities have the right to designate certain groups priority. These include those over 62, those working 42 hours a week or more, those living in a shelter, homeless families, displaced families, as well as those who pay 50 percent or more of their income toward housing. Since individuals in these categories receive preferential access, knowing about these categories beforehand may help with the approval process.
Finding Eligible Housing
Both the applicant and the dwelling must qualify for Section 8 voucher qualifications. They include:
- A lease that initially lasts for one year
- The applicant must be able to pay 30 percent of the market value
- The unit's size must correspond to the size of a household
- The landlord must agree to accept Section 8 and abide by the Section 8 terms
- The unit must pass inspection by the Public Housing Authority
Section 8 vouchers provide families with support as well as safe and adequate housing. They allow families to select safe areas for their children to grow and to play. It can take months or years to get Section 8 housing. However, for many families the wait results in them living in a better family environment.