Section 8 housing is a government program that helps private landlords subsidize their apartments. If you are part of Section 8 housing as a renter, you receive a voucher that you can present to participating landlords.
Landlords charge you a discounted rent, often a small percentage of what you typically would get. The voucher covers the other portion of your rent. How much you will have to pay for rent depends on how much you make, but generally speaking, it will never be more than 30 percent of your wages.
Public housing is a government housing program that allows people to live in a building at a vastly discounted rental rate or even free of charge. Public housing is typically limited to low-income families, and the rental housing is owned by government entities, not private landlords.
At times, renters have the option to purchase their public housing, but they need to meet specific requirements, and the sale needs to be approved by the Public Housing Authority.
Although section 8 and public housing are both government-sponsored programs, there are some key differences. The biggest difference is that public housing is limited to government-operated buildings, while with a section 8 voucher, you can rent from any landlord that accepts section 8 vouchers. This means that you have more options and flexibility with section 8. It’s also easier to move with section 8.
One more important difference is that section 8 is exclusively for renters, while public housing can be rented or bought by low-income families. This makes it more flexible for people who are ready to purchase a home.
The process tends to be very similar for both Section 8 and public housing options. In both cases, you will have to do the following:
- Contact your local HUD office and explain the situation. Say you want to apply for public housing or Section 8.
- Fill out the forms and provide proof of income. You will need to identify all the people who will live in the home, pets included. You also will have to show your income and potentially your assets.
- Section 8/Public Housing Authority will then do a background check. They want to make sure you’ll be a good tenant. Depending on the HUD guidelines, you may need to provide references or have an in-person interview.
- Receive confirmation and a key. Once the check goes through, you will get confirmation and a key. You may be put on a waitlist, depending on demand. If you are waitlisted, you will get a key when your name is called.
Both Section 8 and public housing have similar eligibility requirements. In most areas, you have to have between 80 to 50 percent of the median household income. Preferences are given to the disabled and elderly.
The requirements for both programs can vary from state to state and from neighborhood to neighborhood. At times, what you can get depends on what is available. Not all cities have public housing.
The biggest reason to get rejected for housing deals with evictions or felony arrests. While these programs are forgiving, there’s only so far that these programs can bend.
When it comes to understanding the key differences between the two, these main points are the ones you need to remember:
- Section 8 is for privately-owned units, while the government owns public housing. This changes how things are managed and whether you get accepted.
- You can buy a home from a public housing program, but you can’t buy Section 8. Section 8 is generally rent-only.
- Availability of Section 8 is widespread, while public housing is harder to come by. This is just anecdotal evidence, but more areas have Section 8. In many cases, cities have to have their own standards for Section 8 due to the long waiting list it can have.
- When you have Section 8, you’re dealing with a landlord’s particular standards, while public housing is government standard. Depending on who you ask, the landlord issue can be good or bad. Most people feel like they have more rights via the public housing initiative.
Section 8 and public housing can offer great options for people in a bind. If you are low- to moderate-income, you could qualify for a livable home with one of these programs, and they are both worth checking out.