How to Apply for Section 8 Housing Assistance

Not only is rent expensive, but today’s minimum wage is just not enough for a person to survive on while paying bills. Even the smallest apartment can eat up a large portion of your income and in some areas, almost all of it, especially if you need more room than just an efficiency apartment. For those with little income, rentals may generally out of reach, leaving many families struggling just for a place to live. Many families end up relying on the generosity of other family members for a place to stay. With Section 8, however, low-income families can get the housing they need while getting a price they can afford based on their income. Continue reading to find out how to apply for Section 8 Housing Assistance.

Section 8 is not like public housing facilities. Instead, this program offers rent vouchers to renters in the lower income bracket in order to make it more affordable for them to rent their own home. There is some freedom in allowing the renter the choice of where s/he wants to live when using Section 8 as well, as long as the property takes part in the program and/or can be inspected or upgraded in order to take part in the program. Section 8 covers up to seventy percent of both rent and utility costs, making more rental properties available to those with low income than they’d ever had access to before the program.

How to Qualify

Funding for the program comes from the government while the local housing authority manages renter approvals. Different locations may have some additional qualifications, but the following are basic requirements all potential renters must meet:

  • Income – All renters must have some income. This income must fall below the annual median in their area. Potential renters can still qualify if they make up to half of the median income. You can find a list of income levels on the US Department of Housing website where you’ll be able to search for your own area.
  • Citizenship – All potential renters must be US citizens or legal immigrants. Applicants need proof of citizenship for themselves as well as any other household members.
  • Way of Life – Section 8 Housing Authority generally conducts home interviews with potential renters to get an idea of their way of life or lifestyle. Some areas prevent tenants with past criminal or drug convictions from being able to participate in the program.

If you meet all three of these qualifications, then you are ready to apply.

How to Apply

The application process is fairly easy. Potential renters just need to complete the following steps:

  • Submit an application – Potential renters need to complete and submit an application from their local housing authority or HUD office. Applications must be acquired in person and will require income information as well as basic personal information on the renter and all who will be living within the household.
  • Complete an interview – Depending on your area’s policies, the interview will either take place at the Section 8 office or in the potential renter’s home.
  • Provide documentation – Section 8 will need recent pay stubs, bank statements, and proof of any assets. The potential rental may provide copies of the documentation asked for. In addition, the housing authority may check the potential renter’s credit and/or background as well as contact previous landlords.
  • Find a rental – Once you’ve been approved, you have to find a Section 8 approved dwelling, whether apartment or house. A lease agreement must be completed with the landlord before moving in.

PROS:

  • Choice of rentals – Section 8 gives you freedom of choice instead of having to move into traditional public housing facilities. This gives potential renters the choice of moving out of urban areas and gives them a much wider selection to choose from. Often renters won’t even have to move from the area in which they already reside, allowing school-aged children to continue attending the same school.
  • Quality of life – Section 8 can help to provide a better quality of life for renters, getting them out of high crime urban areas and into better neighborhoods.
  • Income – This program can help renters to have more income available for more than just rent, such as medication, clothing, and food.

CONS:

  • Wait time – The waiting period to be accepted into Section 8 can take several months, sometimes longer than a year.
  • More reviews – Potential renters not only have to reviewed prior to being accepted, but periodic reviews with also be required with the housing authority after moving in.
  • Stigma – As with public housing facilities, there’s a certain stigma attached to receiving federal assistance in the form of Section 8, which may add stress to some renter’s lives.
  • Contentment – Some renters grow content with living in Section 8 and don’t try to further improve their lives by finding better jobs or involving themselves in smarter financial habits. It can keep renters dependent on federal assistance.

With all things considered, Section 8 is actually a wonderful program for those in need. Because of this program, many will be able to afford decent housing that they otherwise would not have been able to afford. However, like most federal programs, it is not meant to be permanent. Section 8 should be used as a stepping stone, allowing the renter to work towards a better future where they can perhaps own their own home one day, or, at the least, be able to afford rent on their own.


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