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What You Should Expect When Applying for Section 8 Housing

When you apply for Section 8 housing, you will have to prove your need for housing assistance by meeting various eligibility factors. If you are deemed eligible, you might be provided with housing assistance immediately, as long as your local PHA has the funds and availability to support your needs.

Many areas of the country, however, have long waiting lists because the need for housing assistance exceeds the available units and funding provided.

To maximize your potential opportunity to receive affordable housing through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, follow these guidelines. They can help you know what to expect and therefore help your chances of receiving assistance.

Eligibility Details

You can first determine whether or not you are eligible for the program before you waste your time submitting an application. Eligibility is primarily based on your income, but the exact numbers vary across the country.

This is because local median income and cost of living standards all vary greatly. Income limits and median income determinations are made by HUD on an annual basis, but local PHAs might then have additional rules and eligibility standards that you must meet in addition to the income guidelines.

The income eligibility standards are based on your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), so you should calculate these figures before starting the application to ensure you are actually eligible for benefits and also make sure you qualify against the HUD figures for the current year.

How to Apply

The application process will be determined by your local PHA. You may have to mail a paper application into the office or complete an application in person if necessary. Additionally, you might need to complete an interview, which could be done in the office or at your current residence. The interview will allow a PHA representative to inspect your situation and your household in order to verify the details on your application.

Your application is the just the start of your housing process. If you are deemed to be eligible and receive a voucher, you will also have to find your own housing unit with a landlord who accepts those vouchers as a partial rental payment. The PHA will also have to verify and authorize your choice of rental unit, so be sure you comply with their specific requirements. Clarify any points of confusion before you begin your search so that you can ensure you find an appropriate home based on those requirements.

How to Prepare

Before you start your application, you want to make sure you have all your proof that you are eligible for Section 8 housing vouchers. The application process will vary based on your local PHA requirements. Make sure you reach out to your local office and inquire as to any specific documentation you might need. Generally, you will need to gather the following documentation to fill out your application and to have on hand as supporting documentation if necessary:

  • Proof of your identity. This might include birth certificates, Social Security cards, driver’s licenses or other legal documents mailed to you at your current address.
  • Proof of your income. This will include pay statements, tax returns, child support payments, Social Security payments, and any other source of income you have. Gather all of these numbers so you can calculate your total income in comparison to the HUD guidelines.
  • Proof of other finances. You will need bank statements, retirement fund information or any other asset details to prove your financial need for housing assistance.
  • Proof of your citizenship or immigration status. Only U.S. citizens or lawfully present immigrants may apply for and receive Section 8 housing vouchers.
  • Proof of your household composition. This will include the full names and Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of everyone in your home, whether you are related or not.

Waiting Lists

Many PHAs have waiting lists for housing opportunities, with many being several years long. Some waiting lists are closed to new applications, which helps to minimize the length of the waiting lists. However, they will open up at very specific intervals. If you live in an area with an extensive waiting list, you can consider applying to other PHAs. However, you will have to be able to move to another area to receive Section 8 benefits. Some PHAs only allow residents to apply. To be sure, you can confirm the various areas you might consider and apply only to those that allow non-residents to apply.

Some PHAs with long waiting lists will offer housing lotteries occasionally to try to provide housing to newly eligible applicants who might otherwise be at the end of a long waiting list. If your PHA is offering a lottery, just confirm the conditions and restrictions first and then submit your name. Additionally, if your need is great, then you might be given higher priority even if you reside in an area with a long waiting list. Always discuss your options with your local housing representatives so you understand your best opportunity.

Housing Options

The main purpose of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program was to offer recipients additional options for choosing where to live, rather than only being provided government housing with no choice offered. With vouchers, recipients can choose where to live, as long as the landlord or homeowner accepts vouchers.

Your local PHA will conduct an inspection and must be included in the lease-signing process to authorize the vouchers, which you can then use in your monthly payments. If there is a difference in cost, you will be responsible for the balance each month. Making sure you comply with all your local PHA regulations for finding a new home will minimize any delays in signing a lease and moving into a new home. Make sure you ask a potential landlord or homeowner who is clear about his or her policy on receiving Section 8 vouchers.

Renting-to-Own With Section 8

Rent-to-own housing allows you to lease a house from a landlord and buy it from them at the end of the set lease. You and the landlord will decide upon an agreement when the contract is signed where you will determine a sales price. Similar to other deals, you will pay fair market rent each month you reside in the residence. The rent-to-own process is usually effective because both the buyer and the seller have incentives to follow through with the deal. Unless you have some type of disability or are elderly, you only have a limited time to receive government assistance.

People who choose rent to own housing typically are trying to improve their financial standing over the lease period. You may also want to test out the home and area before committing to a long-term purchase. At the end of the lease period, you still have the option to leave or purchase the home. This is referred to as an option fee and is different from a security deposit. You will pay the fee at the beginning of the lease period and will have the option to purchase the property at the end of the lease. If you choose to not purchase the property at the conclusion the lease, you will not be credited back any money. The option fee usually ranges from 1 to 5 percent of the eventual price you will pay for the property

During the lease period, the seller must maintain full insurance for the home and pay the property taxes. He or she will also be responsible for paying the homeowner association costs and any other necessary fees. Along with these aspects, the price of the property will remain the same through the rent-to-own agreement. This allows you to potentially receive help regarding equity gains.

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher enables low-income families to pay their rent through the provided benefits. You can use your housing choice voucher to assist in paying the rent and rent premiums during the lease. Once the lease is completed, if you are eligible, you can use a homeownership voucher to make payments on the mortgage. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) homeownership program allows low-income families to use their vouchers to purchase a home and receive monthly benefits to meet the expenses. The HCV program is limited only to families that have been accepted by the program and is not offered by every local PHA. Local PHAs have the option of whether or not to implement the HCV homeownership program in their jurisdictions.

In the instance you do not already have vouchers, you will need to apply at your local PHA and meet the eligibility requirements. Your voucher payments will be credited towards your mortgage each month. However, vouchers towards the mortgage will not be enough. You must still qualify for the mortgage and provide a down payment to complete the purchase. For a home to be purchased using this method, it must meet the PHA initial housing quality standards inspection, along with an additional independent home inspection.