The “Section 8” Housing Choice Vouchers Program offers affordable housing choices for very low-income households by allowing families to select from privately owned residences that are being made available for rent by their owner. Local municipal public housing authorities (PHA) generally pay the landlord the difference between 30 percent of household income and the PHA-determined payment standard – which is approximately 80 to 100 percent of the fair market rent (FMR).
For landlords and their units to participate in the program, the rent must be reasonable. The tenants may choose a home with a higher rent than the FMR, in which case they would pay the landlord the difference themselves, or they may choose a lower cost rental and keep the difference.
Who is eligible:
Eligibility for a housing voucher under the Section 8 program is determined by the local PHA administering the program. Tenant eligibility is based on the total annual gross income and family size, and it is limited to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the HCV program family's income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, a PHA must provide 75 percent of its vouchers to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the median income for the area, which is published by HUD and vary by location. The PHA serving your community can provide you with the income limits for your area and family size.
How it works:
The housing choice voucher program offers the individual family that is participating in the program the ability to research and select from the available rentals that best suit their specific needs. The housing voucher holder is advised of the size of the residence that they may rent under the program based on their family size and composition.
The residence selected by the family must meet the minimum required standards for health and safety so that the PHA can approve the unit for rental under the program. Once a voucher tenant reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms for the unit that they wish to rent under the program, the PHA must first inspect the dwelling and determine that the requested monthly rental rate is reasonable. Every PHA determines their payment standards based on the amount that is generally needed to rent a moderately-priced residence in the local housing market. It uses the local market rental rate to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive, but the local payment standard does not limit the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay.
Under the requirements of the program, housing voucher families must pay 30% of their monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. If the unit rent is greater than the payment standard for the local market, the family is required to pay the additional amount. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40 percent of its adjusted monthly income for rent.
Because a family's housing needs adjust over time with changes in family size, job locations, and other reasons, the program is designed to allow families to move without the loss of rental assistance. The family must notify the PHA ahead of time, terminate its existing lease within the lease provisions, and find acceptable alternate housing.
Under the program, new voucher recipients may select a unit anywhere in the United States, as long as the family lived in the jurisdiction of the PHA issuing the voucher when the family applied for assistance. Families that plan to move to another PHA's jurisdiction must consult with the PHA that currently administers their voucher to verify the moving procedures.
When a voucher family selects a residence and it is approved for leasing under the program by the PHA, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. Under the terms of the lease, the tenant may be required to pay a security deposit, and the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit under a month-to-month lease after the first year elapses.
Tenants are expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay their share of the rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition, and notify the PHA of any changes in income or family composition.