Housing Vouchers: What to Know

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a well-known affordable housing opportunity available to households in need. There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of this program as Section 8 before! Section 8 can provide affordable housing options for low-income families and eligible individuals. Everyone deserves access to decent housing, but unfortunately not everyone can afford it. Fortunately, for over 40 years, Section 8 has been benefiting households in need. If you find yourself struggling to pay rent in this economy, then you’re not alone. Section 8 assistance may be a great option to help you get your housing costs down! 

How Section 8 Can Reduce Hardship for Low-Income Households

The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides low-income individuals and families access to safe and decent housing at an affordable rate. The program helps by providing financial assistance, in the form of vouchers, to cover a portion of housing costs. The assistance Section 8 provides has been able to effectively decrease housing instability for qualifying households.

Recipients of Section 8 are responsible for finding their own rental unit giving households the choice in where they want to live. In addition to that, with the extra assistance they’re receiving, they may be able to move to better neighborhoods. In turn, this can increase access to higher quality schools and other job opportunities, enabling a family to work towards a more stable future.

This is actually one of the main purposes of Section 8 assistance. Research demonstrates that residing in higher-opportunity neighborhoods have a positive impact on families. 

How Many Americans Receive Section 8 Vouchers?

Approximately 2 million American households are currently receiving housing vouchers. However, the funding for this program is limited. Although millions of families are getting the help they need, many more are waiting for their turn at assistance. In fact, just 1 in 4 qualifying households end up getting a voucher because of lack of funding. Moreover, approved applicants are often placed on to extensive waiting lists before they receive a voucher. 

How Section 8 Delivers Housing Assistance

Qualifying recipients of Section 8 are awarded a voucher that covers a portion of their rent. The amount a recipient can get is dependent on their personal situation. Factors such as income level and household status are taken into consideration. In addition to that, the housing market in the recipient’s desired neighborhood also affects the amount of the voucher. When finding a rental unit to live in, recipients need to ensure that the landlord is willing to accept vouchers as payment.

Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) are responsible for managing Section 8 on a local level. PHAs administer vouchers directly to recipient’s landlords each month. The amount of rent that vouchers do not cover is left up to the tenant’s to pay. 

If you’re wanting to apply for Section 8, you need to reach out to your local PHA to get started. The specific criteria required to qualify depends on which state you’re applying in. However, as stated before, income and family status are typical factors that are looked at. 

How Much Are Vouchers Worth?

As previously stated, the amount a voucher can cover is dependent on the recipient’s personal situation. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines that households should not spend higher than 30% of their income on housing costs. Therefore, the amount that recipients are expected to pay is typically about this percentage of their income. However, payment standards set by local PHAs can affect this expectation.

For example, if a tenant selects a rental that is above the local payment standard, they may be required to pay a greater percentage of their income. Payment standards are based on the Fair Market Rents (FMR) established by the HUD. Local PHAs can set a standard that is between 90% – 110% of a specific area’s FMR.

How to Use Section 8 Vouchers to Purchase Your Dream Home

Current voucher recipients may be able to become eligible to use their monthly subsidy to purchase a home, rather than continue renting. Renting can provide many households with greater short term flexibility. However, families may eventually find themselves wanting to establish more permanent roots. In that case, purchasing a home may be a good idea. Unfortunately, expensive upfront costs can scare many people away from pursuing the traditional home buying process. The Homeownership Voucher Program makes it possible for current voucher holders to use their assistance towards mortgage payments instead. These vouchers may also help to cover other relevant expenses such as property taxes. 

While this program can offer a great opportunity, it isn’t available everywhere. Furthermore, due to limited funding only a portion of eligible applicants can take advantage of this program. Finally, in order to qualify for this, current voucher holders may need to meet a variety of requirements. Some might  include:

  • Income Requirements
  • Credit Requirements / Rental History
  • Completion of a Homeownership Counseling Program

Wrapping it Up

As a low-income individual, finding suitable housing can be a challenge. Fortunately, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also commonly known as Section 8, can help with that. Recipients of this program receive housing vouchers that cover a portion of their monthly housing expenses. Local PHAs that manage the program, administer the assistance and manage the program. 

Approved Section 8 recipients are in charge of finding their own rental unit to live in. This can be a little tricky because the landlord of the property needs to be willing to accept vouchers. In addition to that, another challenge eligible households face is long wait times. Due to the current state of the housing market, there are many more people in need of assistance than Section 8 can offer at one time. 

While these two obstacles can create frustrations, Section 8 remains a valuable resource for affordable housing. If you’re in need of assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local PHA as soon as possible! The process can be time consuming. However, don’t let that discourage you from potentially making the right steps towards a better future for you and your family.

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