What is Section 8 Housing?

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Apartment BuildingMany young families starting out need a little help finding affordable housing. One of the options out there is Section 8 housing.

Section 8 housing gets its name from the Housing Act of 1937, in which a program to provide rental housing assistance was started. There are a number of programs related to section 8 housing, and Housing and Urban Development oversees them. One of the most popular programs is the Housing Choice Voucher Program. With this program, tenants can choose qualified housing from participating landlords.

With section 8 housing, the government subsidizes a portion of your monthly rent payment by making payments to the landlord on your behalf.

Who Can Benefit from Section 8 Housing?

In my area, there are a lot of young families taking advantage of section 8 housing programs. Many of them are relatively young, married, and often in school. They are looking for an inexpensive place to live while they get ready for careers and start families.

However, this isn’t always the case. Section 8 housing can also benefit those who are disabled and unable to hold down a regular job. Recipient Natasha Richard (pen name Charlie Fey) says that, “The section 8 program provides me and my child a place to live, and I am grateful for that. Although I am on disability, I am very enthusiastic about my own writing business. I see my section 8 as giving me the opportunity to build a successful career that will me get off housing assistance in the future.”

Who Qualifies for Section 8 Housing?

First of all, it’s important to realize that section 8 housing isn’t an entitlement program. It is administered locally and through states, and not everyone who qualifies for a voucher receives a voucher. In some areas, especially urban areas, the waiting list can be rather long. One applicant, who asked that I not share her name, claims to have tried in her area to sign up for eight years, only to be told that the program is backed up and not accepting new entrants. “Section 8 is a great concept,” she says. “Unfortunately, I believe it is too often used as a lifetime subsidy.”

Qualification is based on total household income and the number of people living in your household. Different areas have different limits, though, so you will need to double check the requirements in your area. In general, though, the rule of thumb is that you usually qualify when your household has a total income that is less than half the median income for your locality and household size.

Other factors are also included when evaluating an applicant, including homelessness, being a senior, veteran status, children that you have, disability, and more.

Once you start earning money, you need to submit information about your new income situation. As your financial situation improves, you will see the amount of your subsidy reduced. Eventually, though, you will no longer receive the assistance as your income rises to 80% of the local median. Realize that your acceptance into the program is based on your income at the time you apply.

You can find information on HUD housing and how to find the program offices in your area, on the HUD web site.

(Photo: ryarwood)

{ 17 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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17 Responses to “What is Section 8 Housing?”

  1. Christian L. says:

    What effect does veteran status have on applying for Section 8 housing?

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  2. Bob says:

    Where I live most of the people who have section 8 housing are people who keep making babies they can’t afford to feed. The more babies they make the more help ($$$) they get. Screwed up system that is set up for abuse from day one.

  3. Susan says:

    I’ve listed my property on the GoSection 8 website for several weeks. Are there other viable ways to target Section 8 tenants? Please don’t suggest Craig’s List.

    • jim says:

      Your local Section 8 housing office should have you put your contact information on a list of landlords that they give to prospective tenants. In addition, anywhere you advertise, just say in the ad, “section 8 accepted”. Good luck.

  4. Bianka says:

    Great article much needed. Especially here being laid off my job single parent no child support here in California where rents and real estate is too high

  5. freeby50 says:

    Susan, Wny don’t you want someone to suggest Craigslist? Works fine for us. I get tons of tenant interest from Craigslist. Here I have no trouble attacking section 8 applicants and I don’t even accept it. Where do you live??

  6. freeby50 says:

    I think a key detail here is implied by this bit “qualified housing from participating landlords.”

    It only works with participating landlords. Landlords are generally not required to accept section 8. (rare acceptations where some local or maybe state government may mandate you accept it)

    There are mixed feelings about section 8 from landlords. Some like it and some do not.
    I have yet to accept it and I see no real incentive for me to do so.

    As a landlord I would have to deal with government inspections, government bureaucracy and in worst case arbitrary government mandates. I heard a horror story of a local section 8 authority that ran out of money and forced landlords to accept lower rent even though there was a lease. Seems illegal but only recourse there is to sue the government which isn’t ever fun and for all I know they may have the power to do that in the fine print of the agreements. No thanks. I’d like to help out low income families but not with that system and zero incentive to accept it.

    • jim says:

      You make some good points, and I can certainly understand why you won’t accept section 8. In addition, there is a clause in every section 8 lease between the landlord and the housing authority that states that the government may at any time stop payments to the landlord and no reason has to be given. Amazing what the government can do!!

  7. We have one section 8 tenant and they have been great. The section 8 portion of their rent is deposited like clockwork into our checking account, and the tenant pays the difference – and is grateful to be living in a nice (imo) home paying the difference between the subsidy and the lease rent.
    Section 8 requirements from landlords are strict and the housing must be qualified, but it also works the other way around. Tenants must be qualified tenants. They do not trash the place or they are out of the system.
    It isn’t a perfect system, but it is a step higher than 100% welfare.

  8. bloodbath says:

    I was a Section 8 Landlord for 2 years. I got out of it because the concept is good but the implementation encourages misuse. My tenant not only caused major damage to my property but she sublet the house and had her daughter with 3 grand children, boyfriend and her mother living with her. I reported her but she’s still on Section 8 doing the same thing to another landlord.

  9. noooawlins says:

    Section 8 Housing devastates neighborhoods.

  10. Shirley says:

    Bianka, if you find that you need Section 8 housing, apply immediately. As I understand it here in Calif., the waiting list is close to two years.

  11. Susan says:

    Thanks for the pro & con on Section 8, but it doesn’t answer my question which is:

    Does anyone know of other viable ways to find Section 8 tenants besides GoSection8 and Craig’s List?


  12. freeby50 says:


    Not sure theres any real tricks here.

    You can advertise the property in any way you can. newspaper ad, post a note on billboards, sign in the yard, rental market websites, whatever.

    You could contact local charities or aid groups and let them know you have sect 8 housing. They might know people looking.

    Do GoSection8 and Craigslist not work for you?

    Not sure why you’re asking.

    Your property also has to be rented at the right price. It can’t be too expensive or it won’t be attractive for section 8. THey set vouchers based on market rates and if you’re too high its too expensive for them.

    What city are you in?

  13. admiral58 says:

    I think we need to reign these types of programs in

  14. Nora Fraser says:

    I am a family of five. I signed up for section in when the two week door was opened up. I got in and am still on the list as there is no money according to case workers when I call them. We have three children one that is disabled. My husband has cerbral palsy and works every day. I am a cancer patient and stay home with our disabled child. I have yet to see any funds from this program. At least 50% of my husband’s pay goes to rent. We barely make it monthly. Any advice.

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