Buying A House Using Section 8 Vouchers gives low-income people the opportunity to live outside poor communities. However, this article will guide you on how to apply, how to qualify for a voucher, and what it’s like to live in Section 8 housing.
For some families, finding decent, safe, and affordable housing presents a challenge. Since most areas of the United States do not have rent control laws, affording private rentals in good areas can seem like an unreachable goal for some renters.
As a result, many families live in high-crime areas or in substandard housing. To combat this, the U.S. government developed the Section 8 program, which helps low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled afford the cost of living.
And also provides incentives to landlords willing to work with local housing authorities.
In this Article:
- What is Section 8?
- Pros and Cons of Section 8
- How Does Section 8 Work?
- Section 8 Eligibility
What is Section 8?
The Section 8 program helps low-income, elderly, and disabled tenants afford decent and safe housing outside of the public housing system.
With traditional housing assistance, many of these renters had to live in public housing facilities often located in rougher neighborhoods, with very few other housing options.
Using the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, tenants receive a housing voucher they can use for any privately owned apartment, townhouse, or house that has qualified for the Section 8 program.
To start working with the Section 8 program, landlords and tenants must receive approval from the local housing authority.
Requirements to become a Section 8 housing landlord and qualifications for renters vary by area. Approved applicants are put on a waiting list unless housing is immediately available.
Pros and Cons of Section 8
Pros of Section 8
- Reduced Poverty Rate: With the high cost of finding an apartment for rent, many low-income families end up spending the majority of their income on rent. With assistance from the Section 8 program, a smaller income can stretch further and families can do more with their budget. In turn, this helps families climb out of the poverty cycle, reducing the U.S. poverty rates as a whole.
- Reduced Crime Rate: Some traditional public housing facilities, especially in urban areas, become breeding grounds for crime. Placing tenants in privately owned rentals keeps families out of danger and reduces overall crime rates.
- Increased Opportunities: Families who participate in Section 8 housing programs are frequently able to move out of impoverished areas and into neighborhoods with better school systems and increased job opportunities.
Cons of Section 8
- Burden on Taxpayers: Funding for the Section 8 program comes from tax dollars. Some critics argue that these tax dollars could be better spent on other programs that benefit the entire nation, like healthcare and education.
- Mismanagement: Since each housing authority manages Section 8 claims on a local level, execution of the program can vary widely from state to state, and even from city to city. Different management styles can lead to confusion and delays in the program, as well as unchecked approvals for both tenants and landlords.
- Issues with Accountability: Typically, multiple departments of a public agency oversee various facets of a Section 8 program. Complaints about Section 8 programs point to a lack of accountability and a lack of consistency, further contributing to problems including lost applications, a backlog of inspections, and delayed payments to landlords.
- Private Housing vs. Public Housing: Some Section 8 opponents say that developing mixed-income communities, fostered by Section 8 housing, brings down property values and increases crime rates. Poverty, say these opponents, hasn’t been solved by Section 8; it’s instead just been moved from the housing projects into higher-income neighborhoods.
How Does Section 8 Work?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides housing assistance, in the form of Section 8 vouchers, to low-income families. Section 8 vouchers are used to help the family pay for housing.
Local public housing agencies (PHA) administer vouchers based on household income and family size and recipients are free to choose any housing that meets program requirements.
In general, section 8 housing program follows the below structure:
- The individual/household applies for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.
- The applicant is likely placed on a waiting list that may take more than 1-2 years.
- During this time, the applicant can also choose to accept project-based vouchers.
- Once the applicant is approved for a tenant-based voucher, they can begin to look for an apartment or home.
- The applicant can only use the voucher at properties that accept Section 8 vouchers and meet Section 8 requirements, including a physical inspection.
- Once the property is approved, PHAs will pay a portion of rent on their behalf.
- If the applicant is approved for project-based housing vouchers, a PHA can refer the applicant to a project-based assistance property owner with a vacant unit.
- If the applicant is screened and accepted by the property owner, the PHA will pay the portion of rent on their behalf.
Section 8 Eligibility
There are four factors that the Public Housing Authority (PHA) considers to determine Section 8 program eligibility. These include:
- Your family size
- Income limits
- Your citizenship status: The applicant must meet the documentation requirements of citizenship or eligible immigration status. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for voucher assistance.
- Any previous evictions you’ve had: Anyone evicted from public housing or any Section 8 program for drug-related criminal activity is ineligible for assistance for at least 3 years from the date of the eviction.
1. How do I get a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher?
You can apply for a voucher at the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA), 1133 North Capitol St. NE. To apply, you can make an appointment with the Client Placement Division by calling (202) 435-3245. You may also apply by mail. You cannot apply in person unless you have an appointment.
2. How much rent do I pay with a voucher?
You pay rent according to your income. Your rent will be set at about 30 percent of your income. You may pay less than 30 percent for rent if you also pay for your own utilities (electricity, gas, and/or water).
3. How long can I stay in the voucher program?
Once you have a voucher, you generally have the right to keep it forever, unless you violate the rules of the program OR the housing authority runs out of money for the voucher program.
4. When can I move with my voucher?
In general, you must stay in a place for one year before moving. There are some exceptions to this rule (for example, where the landlord refuses to make repairs in the first year). After the first year, you can usually move at any time. DCHA will give you a transfer voucher to look for another place.
5. Where can I move with my voucher?
The voucher program is nationwide. You can use your voucher in Washington, D.C., or to live in another city. If you want to move out of D.C., you must get permission from DCHA so they can do the paperwork to transfer you someplace else.
Buying A House Using Section 8 Vouchers
The Section 8 program can benefit both landlords and tenants. With a Housing Choice Voucher, tenants can rent houses and apartments in safe areas they would not have been able to afford without assistance and use their remaining income to pay for other necessities.
Landlords have more tenants to choose from and therefore may have an easier time renting out their properties.
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