Learn How to Qualify for Section 8 Housing in the U.S.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is commonly referred to as the Section 8 Housing Program. 

It is an assistance program funded by the federal government that helps low-income families in the United State afford decent housing.

In order to receive financial assistance through this program so that you can find a rental home, you must meet eligibility requirements. The most important of these requirements is the gross annual income of your household, although there are many other factors that must be considered as well.

There is usually a long waiting list for receiving the assistance, and in some states, the waiting lists have been closed and applicants are no longer accepted. It is also important to note that the specific eligibility requirements may vary from state to state, so make sure you are aware of what the requirements are in your area.

In addition, if you apply for assistance, you must continue to meet those eligibility requirements in order to continue receiving assistance. In certain situations, there may even be requirements in place where families must achieve financial independence or reach educational or career goals.

If you are interested in learning more about the eligibility requirements for Section 8 housing assistance, continue reading the sections below.

How Do You Qualify for Section 8 Housing?

Each state has a specific annual gross income limit that is set, and you are only eligible for assistance if you are at or below that limit. The Section 8 program is designed to provide assistance to qualifying low-income families or individuals who are elderly or disabled who cannot afford rent payments.

Because it was created for low-income families, you can only receive assistance by continuously meeting the program requirements. Although income is a big factor, there are additional factors that qualify you for Section 8 housing as well.

These additional factors include the following:

  • Family size
  • Family composition
  • Citizenship or legal immigrant status
  • Personal history
  • Assets
  • Eviction history

The income limits vary greatly depending on the state and even county because of the respective cost of living in that area. Also, the limits vary based on your family size as well.

For example, a family consisting of one individual may be considered low income if he or she earns around $15,000 per year whereas a family of eight that earns approximately $30,000 will also be considered extremely low income.

In most situations, the HUD gives priority to families that are considered extremely low income, although certain low income families may be given preference if they meet other requirements, such as continually receiving public housing assistance in the past.

In addition to the income requirements, in order to qualify for Section 8 housing, you and your family members must be United States citizens or hold lawful status in the U.S. Be prepared to provide documents that prove your citizenship or status, including a U.S. passport, Social Security card, registration card, resident alien card, etc.

If only a portion of the members in your household hold legal status in the U.S., the family is considered mixed and is eligible for prorated assistance that is calculated based on the number of legal U.S. citizens in the family.

The methods that the public housing agencies use to estimate your eligibility includes gathering information about you and the members of your household from institutions such as banks, employers and other local agencies.

In addition, a family’s spending habits, lifestyle and drug usage can also be taken into consideration when determining eligibility. Background checks are also utilized to learn more. If it is discovered that you meet the eligibility requirements, you will be put on a waiting list.

Once it is your turn, the PHA will notify you and discuss the amount of financial assistance you will be receiving. The payment amount on the housing vouchers will be disclosed so that you can begin searching for suitable accommodations or begin applying that assistance to your current home.

Eligibility Income Limit for Section 8 Applicants

It is important that you understand the Section 8 housing requirements and eligibility factors so that you can make an educated decision about whether you should apply. The public housing agencies in each state set an income limit that factors in the cost of living in that area.

Low-income families make up the biggest portion of beneficiaries of the assistance. Therefore, families must be classified by their size and income in order to determine who can receive the assistance and who gets preference.

The PHA divides families into extremely low income, very low income and low income. Earning 30 percent of the median area income qualifies you as extremely low income, earning 50 percent of the median area income qualifies you like very low income, and earning 80 percent of the median area income qualifies you as low income.

Also, depending on the size of your family, your annual gross income must be lower than the area’s median income in order for your family to be eligible.

The PHA has specific requirements for what is considered a family. According to public housing agencies, a family is defined as:

  • A single individual with or without children.
  • A group of individuals with or without children.
  • Elderly citizens older than 62 who constitute a family.
  • A displaced family, wherein one or more family members has been displaced at some point.

Families with an income that does not exceed 30 percent of the median area income will receive 75 percent of all available housing vouchers. The remaining 25 percent will be provided to families with income levels over 30 percent.

The exact median area income levels vary depending on the location, even from county to county within one state. The limits are published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, so contact your local public housing agency to learn what the limits are in your area.

You must also keep in mind that even if your family meets all of the necessary low-income eligibility requirements, that does not mean that you will immediately receive benefits. Because of the popularity of the program, you will first be placed on a waiting list.

You will only receive benefits if you are still eligible once your name has reached the top of the list. If you are still eligible at that time, payments will be sent to you in the form of housing vouchers issued by the PHA.