If you are a part of a low-income household, you may be interested in learning more about the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing assistant programs, such as the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Through this invaluable program, the neediest families across the country are able to find affordable housing and obtain the support needed to reduce the strain and displacement housing insecurity creates. Low-income housing is offered only to qualifying applicants.
What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
Formerly referred to as Section 8 housing, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is a housing assistance resource that is overseen by the HUD. Beneficiaries receive aid with their rent and utility payments, allowing many low income households to rise from poverty. If interested in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, it is crucial that you first learn more about it as there are specific eligibility requirements as well as waiting lists involved with this housing program.
How to Apply for the Housing Choice Voucher Program
While overseen by the HUD, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is actually administered through public housing agencies across the U.S. Each state has several of these agencies and it is recommended that you apply to more than one PHA due to the fact that PHA waiting lists are separate from one another. Additionally, Housing Choice Voucher Program income requirements are different for each PHA, due to the average earnings of citizens in the immediate area.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program Eligibility Requirements
If you are interested in applying for the HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, it is important that you first understand eligibility requirements for the program. This program’s eligibility requirements are somewhat similar to that of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a household must meet requirements for citizenship, residency and income. In addition to these three requirements, Housing Choice Voucher Program applicants are also required to meet a familial status requirement.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is designed for low income families who are either United States citizens or qualifying, legal non-citizens. You must also be a resident of the state that you are applying for. Generally, a household’s income must be below 50 percent of the median income of the county or metropolitan area that the family would like to live in. This is one reason it is recommended that a household apply to more than one public housing agency (PHA) if they are able to, because failing to meet income eligibility guidelines at one agency does not mean that a household will not meet these guidelines elsewhere. While incomes that are below 50 percent of the median income within an area are the bare minimum income requirements, by law, a PHA must provide at least 75 percent of their vouchers to families whose income does not exceed 30 percent of an area’s median income.
Lastly, the Housing Choice Voucher Program requires specific information about your family composition. In order to be eligible for housing assistance, applying households must either have a dependent child, a disabled individual or a senior citizen in the household.
It is also worth knowing that any information provided on a Housing Choice Voucher Program must be supported by documentation proof and verified by a PHA representative. The PHA will verify all provided information with other local agencies, an applicant’s employer, an applicant’s landlord and even their financial institution.
What are Housing Choice Voucher Program waiting lists & local preferences?
Each Public Housing Agency has its own waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program and it is not unusual for an applying household to remain on this waiting list for months or years. Waiting lists are notoriously long and since each PHA has their own lists, it is recommended that potential applicants apply to more than one PHA. In fact, these lists are often shut down when it the PHA has more families than they can assist in the near future.
Once a household reaches the top of a waiting list they are contacted by the public housing authority by mail with the next steps, including an orientation where eligibility would be re-established and the Housing Choice Voucher Program rules and benefits would be provided to the household. Additionally, a list of housing units that accept the Housing Choice Voucher Program will be provided during orientation.
It is important to know that while some PHA’s will provide benefits on a first come first serve basis, others may provide benefits after lottery drawings. Some PHA’s give preference to families who are homeless, living in substandard housing, paying more than 50 percent of household income towards rent or have a member of the household who is involuntarily disabled.
How does the Housing Choice Voucher Program Work?
Once a family has been approved for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, they will be responsible for choosing housing and are encouraged to review several options before making a decision. While approved housing can consist of a single family home, townhome or apartment complex, landlords and owners must have already been approved by the PHA before their properties will be housing assistant eligible.
Once a unit has been selected, the public housing agency will determine the beneficiary amount that the household will receive. This is calculated based upon the general cost of living within an area. The Housing Choice Voucher Program does not affect what the landlord or owner receives for rent. Instead, the PHA will make monthly payments directly to the landlord or owner to cover a share of the rent. Typically, a family receiving assistance will pay 30 percent of its monthly adjusted gross income towards rent and utilities, but that number can go as high as 40 percent.
It is also worth knowing that there are an abundance of rules in association with the Housing Choice Voucher Program that beneficiaries must abide to in order to keep their benefits. These rules include paying their share of the rent on time, passing annual inspections, being a good neighbor and tenant and moving rules and restrictions. Beneficiaries are also required to report any changes to their income or household makeup.