If you live paycheck to paycheck, you might be worried about a large expense sneaking up on you. For example, you might suddenly lose your job and struggle to make bill payments.
Even if you have an emergency fund for such a situation, your emergency money may quickly run out. That may leave you struggling to even afford basics, such as your monthly rent.
That is when housing assistance may be able to help. Section 8 is one of the largest housing assistance programs in the U.S. Here are some important things to know about it.
What is the Housing Act of 1937?
Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 outlines a program that provides low-income housing to qualified individuals. Since its creation, it has been amended several times.
In its current state, it authorizes two distinct types of federal housing assistance. One provides specific subsidized housing units at low rental rates. Those units provide reduced rent fees.
The other is the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which is what most people think of when they think of Section 8.
How Does the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program Work?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is administered by local Public Housing Agency offices (PHAs). It serves disabled individuals and families with extremely low incomes.
Qualifying individuals or families receive monthly voucher credits. The vouchers are sent directly to property owners by the PHA monthly. Qualifying renters are not directly involved in the voucher payment process.
However, they must:
- Find property owners willing to participate in the program.
- Ensure their chosen rental units pass PHA safety inspections.
- Pay the difference owed between their rental amounts and the voucher amounts from their own funds each month.
How is Section 8 Eligibility Determined?
If you want to participate in Section 8, you must meet the eligibility requirements. Not every individual or family qualifies for assistance.
For example, you must be a legal U.S. immigrant or citizen. You must also have an annual income that is considered to be low for where you live.
Additionally, you must fit in one of the following categories:
- You live alone and are elderly, disabled, or pregnant.
- You are part of a family as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- You are a student living alone and meet at least one of the eligibility criteria for students on Section 8, such as being a veteran or having a dependent child.
The Section 8 Approval and Waiting List Process
After you file a Section 8 application, you must wait for approval. You may need to answer questions and clarify data before getting approved.
After approval, there is no guarantee of immediate assistance. Many areas have lengthy waiting lists for Section 8 housing. You must wait until your household moves to the top of the list, which could take months or years, depending on the PHA.