Currently, over 4 million low-income individuals and families receive some kind of housing, voucher, or subsidy through HUD. HUD is a cornerstone of the US affordable housing market for low-income individuals and families.
HUD housing refers to a program implemented under Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his War on Poverty. HUD's mission is to create suitable and decent housing for all Americans. HUD offers two primary housing types for low-income families, disabled individuals, or elderly individuals:
- Section 8 Housing
- Public Housing
First, there is the Housing Choice Voucher program, commonly referred to as the Section 8 program. This program provides individuals with a rent subsidy to obtain housing in their local private rental market. This is an excellent option for those families who would like to pick out their own housing and not be limited to public housing projects. With the ability to pick any type of housing, a family's section 8 Voucher can be used for apartments, single-family homes, or townhomes.
If a family receives a Section 8 Voucher, they are essentially receiving a discounted rent amount from the government. The local PHA pays the subsidy to the landlord. The family and recipient of the section 8 voucher must pay the difference between the actual rent and the amount covered by the HUD program.
Family Status Under Section 8
A common misconception is that you must have children to qualify for a Section 8 Voucher. However, that is not the case. Individuals can be eligible for Section 8 provided that their income meets the criteria. To be considered a family in Section 8, you must meet one of the following conditions:
- have one disabled family member
- have one family member who is 62 years or older
- Have children
- have been displaced from your prior home or an eligible reason to qualify under HUD housing
- previously have lived with the second recipient but now live alone because the other recipients have moved out
How Much Does a Section 8 Voucher Provide?
Your local PHA will determine what percentage of your rent you are responsible for, which varies by family size and income level. While there is no set dollar amount as to how much Section 8 will apply towards a family's monthly rent, there are payment standards on how much the program will subsidize. So, for example, let's say that HUD has a payment standard of $1,000 in your area for a 2 bedroom. A family can choose to rent a dwelling that is below the payment standard or above the payment standard of $1,000. However, if a family selects a unit that is above the payment standard, the recipient will be responsible for that difference in addition to their current share of the payments.
HUD also offers public housing, which is comprised of a mixture of single-family homes and multi-family buildings. This type of public housing is government-funded. If you qualify for public housing you will be limited to specific buildings.
Whether you want to qualify for Section 8 or public housing, the eligibility requirements are similar in most cases.
1. Contact Your Local PHA
First, you should contact the local public housing agency in your area, also known as your local PHA. This will be the first step to figuring out whether or not you qualify for some form of section 8 housing. On HUD's website, you can find your local PHA by searching by your current location where you are seeking housing. Especially in these unprecedented times, be prepared to be waitlisted for HUD housing. Both Public Housing and Section 8 waitlists are currently closed in some areas. Practically this means that you may need to seek housing in a less populated area to qualify for a HUD Program.
2. Be Prepared to Be Waitlisted
Once your local PHA has determined that you are eligible for the program, they will more than likely waitlist you. Once your name has moved towards the top of the list, they typically can begin verifying and processing your application.
3. Have Your Income Verification Documents Ready
Your eligibility for housing can come up at any time. As such, have your verification documents ready. To qualify for either section 8 or public housing, your HUD eligibility is primarily based on your family's income compared to your area's median income. Generally speaking, to qualify for the section 8 HUD program, you must not make more than 50% of your local area's median income. For public housing, the income restriction is even greater as you cannot make more than 80% of the area's median income. Whether you are seeking Section 8 or public housing, preference will be given by her to homeless individuals and families or people and families who live in inadequate housing that spend more than 50% of their income on housing.
4. Be Ready to Prove Your Citizen Status
Another important thing to remember is that Section 8 is only available for US Citizens and certain immigrant classifications. As such, every person residing in your household must execute a certification form that certifies that they are either a citizen, an alien, or not claiming eligibility status. In some cases, you may be asked for additional documentation, such as your US passport, registration card, resident alien card, or social security card. Keep in mind that a family comprising of both citizens and non-citizens ineligible for the program may still apply. However, any Section 8 assistance will be determined by using the number of eligible individuals.
Once all this information is submitted and processed, your local PHA will advise you on the next steps to obtaining housing in your local area.
Qualifying for public housing offered by HUD is typically a time-consuming process. You should be prepared to provide all the necessary paperwork and wait for the approval. If you're in a major city, waitlists for HUD public housing and section 8 can take months or even years. However, if you are in a bind and need emergency housing, you can try to get section 8 immediately if you meet the specific requirements.