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What is Section 8 Housing?

Many 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 [3]. 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 [4], on the HUD web site.

(Photo: ryarwood [5])